Wednesday, August 31, 2022

On being a Car Guy

I am not 44 years old. Though I had been for a good 20 years. 

I recently decided to retire that line which had served its purpose of pointing out the ageism in the ad business. And because one unsuspecting Creative Service Manager had that look on her face, upon our first meeting, that said, "Damn, you look terrible for 44. Is that what this business does to you?"

But now that I've outted myself as a late middle ager -- I'm sorry but I can still bench press more than many men 1/3 my age -- it's time to come clean about being a 1976 high school graduate. And part of that is my love for the movie Dazed and Confused.

Those who have seen the movie and came of age in the 1970's know what a classic it is. Particularly for its pinpoint accurate characters. And though the film is set in the backwoods of Texas, it bears the tell tale aromas, sights and memories of Suffern, NY.

As an aside, Dazed and Confused is 100 times better than the broader and sweeter Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It has an indescribable grit and edge that make the former a film and the latter a movie.

One could also argue that the cars in Dazed and Confused play a major role in the film. Indeed the destruction of Forrest Whitaker's car is an important substory in the film. A reflection of the adoration young boys had for the muscle machines of the era.

I was not struck by that affliction. Though many of my friends with their supercharged Chargers, Mustangs, Camaros and Firebirds were. I was lucky enough to scrounge $400 so I could buy my first car, a 1966 Plymouth Valiant. It had all the sex appeal of Abe Vigoda.

What it lacked it aerodynamic curves and raw horsepower, it easily made up for in utility and longevity. The beat up old blue Valiant I drive had north of 200K miles on it. And had I known how to rebuild a carburetor or recalibrate the timing belt, like my high school classmates, chances are I could still be tooling around in that little tank.

Truth is, I didn't share the auto-eroticism of my peers at that age. Ironic since I went on to become a "car guy" in the ad business. How many car brands have I worked on you might ask, if you've made it this far? Well, I'll tell you:

* Daihatsu -- makers of fine 3 cylinder economy cars

* Plymouth -- Worked with Pat Riley and Ricardo Montleban (rich Corinthian leather)

* Nissan -- Regional Tent Sales and countless other schlock

* Nissan National -- Big time work with Lee Clow and Rob Siltanen

* Lexus -- CEO: "Left Turn signal, very unprofessional. No Good."

* Jaguar -- Only thing worse than the wiring was their Marketing Department 

* Acura -- More Marketing Madness

* Infiniti -- Four eyes, no vision (credit intently not given)

* Toyota -- I wrote "The Toyotathon of Toyotathons"

* Ford -- Yeah, well we have a Salebration

* Chevrolet -- Helped Publicis win the account, for four months

* Honda 

* Audi

* Volkswagon

* Mercedes


* Mazda

At this point in my less-than illustrious career (Ms. Muse enthusiastically suggests I knock off the self-deprecating zingers) I have a hard time thinking of a car brand I haven't worked on. 

Correction: I've never worked on Porsche, though I have experienced the full Porsche driving experience at their race center in nearby Carson.

It should be noted, especially if any of my high school classmates are reading this, that when it came time to choose my weapon (the iconic 911), I opted for the manual stick shift. Even a non-car guy like myself knows that to properly get the feel of a true sports car you have to work the clutch and find the gears for yourself.

Upon exiting the 400+ horsepower German rocket and after ripping through hairpin turns at ungodly speeds, I also had to find the bathroom and return my breakfast to the sea.

Porsche Training Instructor: "You feeling OK?"

Me (putting on a good front): "Alright, alright, alright."

Nevertheless, I love cars.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Blessing #22 -- A fight

Came across this the other day on social media. It's a still photo of Juaqin Phoenix (SP) from the movie Her. 

It was shot at night so I wasn't actually sitting in my office creating groundbreaking campaigns that would never see the light of day due to corporate timidity -- internal and external.

But the visual triggered a memory. Not an altogether pleasant one, but memorable nonetheless. And funny in hindsight.

Couples fight. 

Married couples fight more, because they're committed to each other and obliged to make things work, no matter how painful. This fight between Deb and I was different. I say different because of the time and place it occurred.

We were on our way to the movies, more specifically we were on our way to see Her. I was curious to see the scenes of Chiat/Day in the background. And the subject matter, a man falling in and out of love with an Artificial Intelligent woman seemed intriguing.

On the way to the theater (pre-Covid times), Deb got a phone call from one of our daughters. For discretionary purposes I won't say which one. She was upset about something. Nothing too unusual as all teenage daughters get upset about something -- a perceived slight, a broken nail,  a lost sweater. The guy at Wing Stop forgot to include Blue Cheese dressing. Who knows?

I don't recall what brought on the tears. I only know that the unwarranted drama was stepping on our alone time.

I asked Deb to shelve the angstrom-sized angst. But, as maternal instincts go, Deb had the empathy for two mothers. Like a mama bear protecting her cubs, she just couldn't turn it off. And didn't, even though the trailers for upcoming movies had exhausted themselves and we were about to watch Juquain (SP) work his silver screen magic.

And that's when things got Meta.

Because, much to the dismay of our movie-going neighbors, Deb and I proceeded to argue, via text, seated right next to each other for the entire film. It was like a scene out of a movie but ironically enough, it was during a movie.

"Let her deal with her own problems"

"You don't understand."

"Correction, I don't want to understand. I want to watch the movie."

"I'm not going to ignore my daughter when she's hurting."

"Didn't we read that book, The Blessings of Skinned Knee?"

"You're breath stinks, take a mint."

Years later, we laughed about the quietest fight we ever had. 

And I would laugh about it now if I could. But I'm coming to the painful realization that while I was and continue to be a good provider for my girls, I am a poor substitute for a mama bear. 

Note to Self: try not to fix everything.

And listen.

Monday, August 29, 2022

House Rules

"Geez, it's Monday morning, is Rich really starting off the week with another hamfisted political post?"


Yes. I am.

There are 435 seats in the House of Representatives. The Democrats have the slightest of a majority. That majority controls which committees get formed. Which bills go to the Senate (to die a slow unproductive death). Which presidents get rightly or wrongly impeached. Which  Top Secret documents get stored securely and safely and which go unaccounted for and reside in a garage next to a box of fake Man of the Year Time Magazine covers.

And so much more. 

In other words, or in these words, EVERY. SEAT. COUNTS.

Which is why I am plugging for my cousin -- David Esrati, my third cousin -- who I met via 23andme. I like to think David and I share the same genetic material that inclines us to fight. For justice. For the everyman. For integrity. For righting the oh so many wrongs of the world. 

As a veteran, a small businessman and an activist, he chooses to do something about it. I choose to write snarky shit and get cheap laughs. 

I spoke with David over the weekend and inquired about his campaign to unseat his opponent, a shameless taintlicking sycophant of ex Precedent Shitgibbon, Mike Turner.

Maybe you've seen this misogynistic, cartoonish mansplainer on TV. Here he is deflecting attention off the TOP Secret documents (now verified by the affidavit) and attempting, disingenuously, onto Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

View the clip

Is it me, can you picture this clod as the model for the GOP senator who ends up with a dead 16 year old hooker in a Nevada brothel, as seen in Godfather II?

David is a long shot for this important seat in Ohio's 10th district. But, as of late, the expected and dangerous Red Wave in the midterms is waning. It would be great if Nancy Pelosi and the brass at the DNC threw more support behind my cousin. 

And I'm not just saying that so one of my distant relatives can have a hand in guiding this future of this country and possibly, some more PPP loans my way.

He is a smart, unconventional, out of the box thinker who thinks globally and acts locally. Check out his website and some of the amazing things he is doing and continues to do for his community. 

Then do what I have done -- send his grassroots campaign some grassroots money. 

As I mentioned in the forward of my last book, Mr. Siegel Writes to Washington, Democracy is not a spectator sport, we all have to participate. To that end, if you send me proof of your donation ($100 or more), I will send you a FREE copy of my book.

It's not just a decorative coffee table book that ignites interesting conversation, it's also a coaster and can accommodate 3 ring-making glasses. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Year of Living Dangerously in LA

In the past several weeks I've had the fortune/misfortune of visiting three of LA's iconic outdoor venues, including last night's live performance by the LA Philarmonic to score the classic and underrated movie Amadeus. 

Maybe you don't picture me a classical music buff or someone given to the antics of one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but you don't really know me, do you?

It was an incredible evening made even more incredible by the handy dandy shuttle bus which eliminates the need to park (expensive) and gain egress (road rage inducing) of this amphitheater tucked in the narrow canyons of Hollywood.

I have been getting out more, trying to recapture the mojo that had been depleted by the pandemic, the presidential nightmare of 2016-2020, the ups and downs of Cancer, the multiple cases of caregiving, and the mourning that literally had me bouncing, painfully, upon the rocky bottom floor of Life's Marianna Trench.

And while it's been a joy to feel alive again, it's also been eye-opening in less than joyous ways. And by that I mean I'd like to focus on rabid exploitation that would send the average Angeleno running back to the safe and affordable confines of one's living room.

First stop -- Dodger Stadium. After making the 1/2 mile walk from the parking lot to the ballpark, we were told told that no bag bigger than a Kindle would be admitted. That necessitated another walk to the car to deposit the offending and security violating accoutrement. Once in the stadium, it was time to purchase some dinner and adult beverages. I knew it would be expensive, after all we paid $25 just for the privilege of parking the car. 

But I had no idea it would require a home equity loan for a couple of Dodger Dogs, peanuts and two beers. By the way they don't sell small beers, only these mammoth sized cans that resemble pony kegs. And don't even think about adding relish or diced onions or sauerkraut to your $11 encased mystery meat. They've done away with that option. 

Actually, the good folks at Chavez Ravine never offered sauerkraut which always seemed like a crime to a former New Yorker who likes his dogs purchased from a street vendor who carefully boils them in water that came straight from Hudson River.

In addition to the Dodgers losing to the Twins, the $$$ experience left a bad taste in my mouth.

Second Stop -- The Greek Theater. There are very few singers on this planet with a unique and inimitable singing style and distinctive phrasing. Sinatra comes to mind. Neil Young and Sonny Boy Williamson come to mind. And so does Robert Plant. In addition to his stellar work with Led Zepellin, he's made amazing music with the Honeydrippers. And most recently with Alison Krause. 

But it would appear the same folks in charge of the concession stand at Dodger Stadium are also bleeding Southern Californian's of their hard earned (Ok I'm a copywrriter, it's not that hard earned) cash. 

Exhibit A: Bottled water and a double Maker's Mark on ice. Price: $65. That's without the tip.

Here's a tip, next time you go to the Greek, hide a flask of whiskey in your underpants.

Third Stop -- Hollywood Bowl. Here too the unsuspecting entertainment-seeking Angeleno is more likely to be fleeced than the recipient of an email from a wealthy Nigerian Prince. After shelling out the equivalent price of a floor model dishwasher at Best Buy, it turns out the wallet leeching has just begun. Like their counterparts, the Hollywood Bowl concessionaires only serve beer from the Big Big cans. 

If you were to drop one of these $21 adult beverages on your foot, you would likely need a visit to an orthopedic toe surgeon. But, only after you sold a 20 or so shares of Apple Stock to cover the cost.

But there is one saving grace to the HB. In what should be a hospitality lesson to their colleagues at Dodger Stadium and the Greek, they allow concert goers to enter, with minimal search-age, with their own grub and grog. What a concept.

In my humble, but deadly accurate opinion, and I have concurrence from Ms. Muse, the Hollywood Bowl has emerged as the winner in this unofficial comparison "consumer journeys" at SoCal venues.

I like being treated like an adult and given the option to brown bag my own outdoor dining experience. 

And though it's unnecessary at this point, having won the contest, the Hollywood Bowl people could earn serious brownie points if they also offered boiled hot dogs, steamed sauerkraut and spicy Gulden's Brown Mustard.

Oh and it has to be served by a stout guy in a cabbie chomping on a cigar. 

And his name has to be Louie.


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Clothes make the man in the dirty nursing home

Did something I haven't done since George Bush (the 2nd one) was in office and bumbling his way through two unnecessary wars and a monumental recession many Republicans forget almost threw us over the financial cliff -- I went shopping. 

For clothes.

I hate shopping for clothes. Hence I'm still wearing T-shirts, shorts and sneaklers that were purchased with dollars earned  (if copywriting can be considered earning) in 2005.

But my physique has changed in the last year or so. And unlike many men of my significant age, it has changed for the better.

When Deb passed away, so did my appetite. I often went a whole day without a meal and would nibble on fruits, nuts and cheese to sustain myself. Given my excessive girth, there was never any danger of running out of fat storage, nevertheless the weight started dropping off, I was emotionally non-eating, if I may coin a phrase.

When my appetite did make a reappearance, I was well on my way to a new method of fueling my body: light snacks throughout the day, one satisfying meal at night, no sugar (other than what's in bourbon) and no bread. 

Compounding the weight loss is my ruthless and obsessive devotion to exercise. I'm wearing out the magnetic gears on my Peloton, lifting weights three times a week, and religiously knocking out 100 pushups a day.

As a result, and thanks to my smart scale which I have cleverly named Studly McStuderton, my BMI is now in the acceptable range, my muscle mass is now in the excellent range, and I have cracked the 180's.

With any luck I can return myself to my 30 year old self. "We can make him bigger, stronger, faster..."

Only with a lot less hair.

And so, pardon the long intro, I needed new clothes. My daughters and the promise to keep my checkbook open, came to the rescue. Literally, because I had been wearing pants and shorts that were falling off my diminished torso. 

Even my belts were screaming to be replaced, "Do NOT punch another hole in me."

But boy, was I in for an eye opener. First stop was Nordstroms in Century City. Once past the obnoxious noxious fumes of the perfume and cologne department, we made our way to the Men's Wear Department. Where my jaw dropped at the portfolio-busting prices. 

$200 for a pair of dungarees (I like dungarees over the more contemporary 'jeans')!!! 

Just as a goof I took a pair into the dressing room, but only after the snobby counter girl acted like she was doing me a favor by letting me in. I wanted to get a laugh out of my girls who were waiting anxiously to see their old man in some skinny jeans that could induce Deep Vein Thrombosis in even the most fashionable European.

Sliding my big EEE foot down the leg opening I suddenly had insight in to peristalsis and how difficult it must be for a snake to swallow a live creature.

I didn't even get past the knee to realize these 'pants/man stockings' were not meant to be.

Sensing this type of shopping and these exorbitant Eurotrash prices were not for me, Rachel and Abby suggested we visit the nearby Levis store, where I dropped more than 2 bills for two pair of dungarees and two two pair of shorts. I might have to trade my Audi in for a Kia in order to afford clothing I can put on my back.

Which brings us to shirts. And my closet full of fat guy shirts that now sit on my frame like a King Size comforter. 

Abby, who has the same knack as her mother for sniffing out the most expensive items and fastest way to drain my bank account, insisted I try on a linen short sleeve shirt with these very cool illustrations of little carrots. I did and it fit me to a tee. Followed by a near coronary when I saw they wanted $165. 

The girls were quick to point out YOLO. And the fact that had I amortized my miniscule wardrobe enhancements over a dozen or so years, the shirt was actually closer to $1.37. Besides, I was simply spending their inheritance money so who was I to turn down their coaxing.

The dividends I have reaped from the recent weight loss are now running me into red ink in the fashion department. I'm going to have a word with the Honey HR department about a raise. 

Or more stock.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

On stacking. and non-stacking.

Like my friend George, I've been plugging away at this blog thing for a very long time. Since 2009, I've regularly put out 4 blogs a week. Sometimes 5 when the news or the world tosses me a hot potato that just won't wait until Monday morning.

In that 13 year span I have not made a dime on the roughly million words I have committed to digital ink. 

Actually, that not true. I've made a couple hundred dollars be agreeing to let Google populate my page with invisible, unclickable banner ads for everything from Russian Dating Sites to Prostate Shrinking Dietary Supplements.

But let's be clear, no one clicks banner ads. Brands aren't built with banner ads. Banner ads are nothing more than poorly art directed, poorly written, best practice dictated eye pollution. PennySaver meet the interwebs.

To be extra clear, I could argue that while I was freelancing, this blog was a direct pipeline to many, many gigs. And so in that indirect way this blog has served me well. Vocationally. And psychologically, because as I often say this blog is my long time therapist.

Now, however, I'm seeing other writers posting their wares on paid subscription sites, like Stack. And SubStack, and SuperStack™. 

Hell, if racist, Christian Nationalist, ex-communicated ad guys can pimp their anti-DEI claptrap, why shouldn't I get a taste. Or, in the vernacular of the Cosa Nostra, wet my beak?

The answer is simple and in no way, shape of form, be construed as some kind of reverse psychology humblebrag. I don't think anyone would pay to wear what I'm knitting. 

To be even more honest, I don't want or need the .003 cents a word, these blog publishing services are offering. Not to mention the editorial constraints, real or otherwise, that I'd be facing. And dreading. And cursing, because that's just the way I roll.

I like the freedom to write what I want to write about.

When I want to write it.

And as sloppily as I choose or am under the influence of a fine rye whiskey.

Not to get too meta on you, but I even love the leeway I've given myself to write a whole blog post about why I won't make any money writing blog posts.

Pencils down!

Monday, August 22, 2022

Blessing #21 -- Ship's Toast

If you were to read the last 8 months of R17, and mind you I'm not sadistically suggesting you do, you would no doubt pickup on my grieving. Which at peak times was overwhelming and frightening. I always felt like I was walking a tight rope over a steep bottomless canyon. 

The trauma of Deb's passing still has the impact of an oncoming train, but I feel like I've been given a pocket schedule and know when and how to step off the track to dodge that pointy cattle grid.

The other thing you'd notice is my unexpected embrace of the paranormal and surprising beauty of unexplainable randomness. Hence the graphic (above) from a light-sourced random number generator.

In that spirit I'd like to share the memory of how Deb and I first met. But to do that we have to go back a little further to 1983 when I was an overeducated, underemployed short order cook at a swanky health and tennis club on Overland Ave., which randomly enough, is now just 1/4 mile from the house I've lived in for 30 years.

There, while swimming in the pool on my break time, I met Michael Allen, the screenwriter who penned Enter The Dragon. He was a jovial ex New Yorker, with a slim swimmer's body and a leathery dark tan. Since the success of the iconic Bruce Lee film he had a lot of free time (and apparently money) to live the dream -- the same writer dream I wanted.

Michael introduced me to his wife. I have forgotten her name but she was very sweet and her ex-husband was Mel Newhoff, founder of Abert, Newhoff and Burr, one of several creative boutique ad agencies in Century City. 

Fast forward a couple of years, lean years when I paid my dues as a mailroom clerk and wrote thousand of recruitment ads, and I found myself working for Mel Newhoff. First, at his eponymously named agency. Later, because he liked me, at Bozell Advertising in Santa Monica. 

That's where I met Jackie and Beth, a producer and an account supervisor on Kawasaki Jetskis. Did I mention we were all in our late 20's and early 30's?  And the pheromones coming from that West Los Angels office could be detected by mountain lions as far away as Elysian Park?

Jackie and Beth were convinced I'd be the perfect boyfriend for their friend, Debbie Weinblatt. They wanted to set us up on a blind date. I was never a fan of that phenomena, which I'm sure in the era of online dating platforms doesn't exist anymore. But, my father had passed away earlier that year and I thought, "why not?" 

Plus, I was 31 years old and still rocking the triathlon body and a tight blue Speedo.

But the blind date NEVER happened. And here's where the rando factor comes into play again. 

One summer Saturday, in August no less, 33 years ago, my buddy Jamie and I were playing for the Bozell softball team. Pretty sure I hit two grand slam home runs that day, but my memory is subject to further investigation. On the way home from the game, Jamie pulled over in his car and waved for me to stop. 

This was before cellphones and right after smoke signals.

I walked up to his window and he said, "my buddy works as a production assistant and they just wrapped filming a Batman movie. Anyway he's throwing a huge party up in the Hollywood Hills, want to go?"

I was literally one red light or one turn of the head from missing this last minute random invite, but luckily I didn't. With nothing better to do I decided to get out of my comfort zone, forego the folding of the laundry or the annual scrubbing of the bathroom, and go to this complete stranger's house.

Turned out he was not exactly a complete stranger, the production assistant's father was Van Gordon Sauter, president of CBS News. And his mother was Kathleen Brown, sister of Jerry Brown, governor of California. Moreover, I don't know if you'd call it a house, it was more like a Jed Clampett mansion. Big enough to house 300 guests!

Among those guests, and you probably saw this coming, was one Debbie Weinblatt. 

Turns out (more randomness) Jackie and Beth knew someone else on the Batman production team and were also invited to this mammoth bachannalia. Again, what are the odds of such a coinky-dink?

Instead of an awkward, forced blind date with all its incumbent uncomfortable moments and job interview type questions, we had the good fortune to come face-to-face. In a relaxed more convivial situation. And then only after a string of random random events (wrote random twice for emphasis). 

We laughed.

We clicked.

We ended the night at Ship's Diner off La Cienega -- where every booth had its own toaster so you could customize your sourdough, rye or pumpernickel settings. 

Because I had sworn off carbs at that time, I'm not sure I partook in the on-table bread toasting. 

Besides, I wasn't hungry. 

I was smitten. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Cool idea, bro

Not long ago, I wrote posts about the sad state of the industry as it operates in today's sad state of the country. Since a certain schmuck descended a certain escalator in a certain flea bag of a condo complex in NYC, sadness has had its day.

I rarely write about advertising today, partly because I don't want to get in hot water where I work, where I've ruffled a few feathers with wisecracks about: earlobes, 10 lbs. babies, Brazilian Bum Bum Cream and Nicki Minaj's cousin -- the one whose testicles swelled up after getting the Covid vaccine. 

The other reason is there frankly hasn't been much to talk about. 

When was the last time you saw something that blew you away? Or merited lively water cooler talk, you know if we were still working in offices and spent some non-billable time milling around a water cooler? 

The Cannes Advertising Festival was just a few weeks ago. Does anyone recall any of the winners? Apologies to my friend Greg Collins who took home much metal, but I just don't know what's newsworthy in the biz anymore.

Then along comes an idea that snaps me out of my hesitation and has me throwing caution to the wind  -- and really how cautious does a 64 year old man need to be? 

The genius idea pictured above comes from Pereira O'dell. I'd link the Adage article that explains the case study in more detail, but I'm not paying for any industry rag that has contributed (by omission) to the demise of our business via the Holding Company evisceration of creativity. 

Quick aside, P J Pereira and I had a digital encounter years ago through a headhunter. We never got past the first stage of the dance but I know he liked my portfolio and promised the headhunter he would hire me one day. That never happened but I have enjoyed watching his boutique agency grow, do amazing work and thumb their nose at the BDAs. 

What I love most about the work cited above is that it is not Small Ball. 

So much of today's "work" is. We spend hours, days, weeks, fiddling over the tiniest details, for stuff no one will ever see: disposable tweets, invisible instas, or spammy spam that fills up so many digital trashcans.

This effort for Pereira O'dell client Midea, maker of fine air conditioning units, is 180 degrees from Small Ball. Moreover, it's timely and unlike many stunts (see Heineken making a beer filled sneaker?) it's refreshingly relevant.

In case the idea needs any further explanation, it is exactly as it would appear. A 90 minute film in an air conditioned theater. I don't know what is on screen -- again, screw you Adage -- nor does it even matter. It's simply about a brand finding a new and meaningful way to talk to new customers and plant a seed for any of their future HVAC needs.

I am in awe of this kind of advertising. It reminds me of what big idea thinking was all about. But, apparently I'm in the minority because in 99.99999999% of the time, a high-minded strategic concept like this is destined for failure before it has taken one step up the Corporate Ladder of Mediocrity™.

"I like it it, but how would we do some A/B testing on something like this?Can we make this a banner ad instead?"   


Wednesday, August 17, 2022

My mind on my money

How do you pay your bills? 

Me, I'm old school. I always have some semblance of an idea of how much I have in my checking account. And when it comes time to pay the bills and check the balance, it's usually within an acceptable margin of error, particularly considering my inclination to make impulse purchases via my incredibly convenient linked PayPal account. 

Also, it should be noted, and I'm not just saying that because I'm a PayPal employee with a year and a half's worth of vesting in the Keep Rich Out of a Dirty Nursing Home Retirement Fund. 

PayPal does an amazing job of making online paying quick and simple and without dicking around with filling in forms and other assorted mishegas.

Maybe I should propose that to the brass. 

Rich's New Tagline Proposal:

PayPal, stop dicking around with payment mishegas.

But again, as the first wave of caffeine has not reached my cerebral cortex, I digress. 

Like you, I don't like paying bills. But I do like sitting down with my coffee, my checkbook, a roll of stamps and a sheet of with my preprinted name and return address. Affixing those labels to an envelope without having to scratch it out by hand is one of life's more simple pleasures. Thank you, St. Judes or Wounded Warriors

As I was explaining to a fellow old school student (though a little less older than me) the other day, there's a tactile sense of control one derives from committing ink to a slip of paper that easily surpasses the clicking of the same computer mouse that brings up one more inane piece of client feedback. Or a stupefying message from one of your daughters that reads, "How do I turn the air conditioning on?"

If I had one gripe about today's younger generations, and now I guess, they're all younger, it would be their utter ignorance when it comes to finance, HVAC and money management. Also, it goes without saying that I don't have one gripe, I have a panapoly of gripes.

I even brought the finance issue up with Monsignor Torgeson, when my very Jewish daughters were attending St. Monica's Catholic High School. 

I had cornered him at a PTA conference and suggested adding that to the curriculum. I can't imagine the internal thoughts that ran through his head at that moment, probably something to the effect of, "Damn these people think about money a lot." 

Or maybe, "I picked a terrible month to stop sipping whiskey."

The school never took me up on my extremely pragmatic suggestion. But Kendrick Lamarr and billionaire Ray Dalio, have. 

You can read about it here

They've taken it upon themselves to produce a series of youth-targeted videos explaining the benefits of "Slow Money."

I still believe one semester in high school would be more effective, but I am just a quiet voice drowned out by the cacophony of parents still screaming because they think CRT is being taught and would prefer to cling their whitewashed version of history.

In any case, I never listen to or liked Kendrick Lamarr before. 

But seeing as he had the good sense to follow up on my idea, I do now.


Editorial note: In a massive sea of banality that is today's advertising, I believe with 100% conviction, that my proposed PayPal tagline would set some hair on fire and reap huge rewards. But that's just my two cents, now worth even less.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Pssst, want to hear a secret?

Let's talk Mara- Lago. 

Why not, everybody else is. Admittedly, I'm not up to date on all the details of this rapidly unfolding story. At least not as much as I'd like to be when it comes Shitgibbon escapades. Of which I was much more informed.

For instance, during his reign of chaotic terror, the orange douchebiscuit claimed he put together the greatest economy in the last 50 years. Statistics from the US Govt BLS, prove most definitely he did not.

Annual GDP growth, the best and clearest indicator of economic propserity show he never produced an annual rate over 2.9%. The same highmark for President Obama. Moreover he promised GDP growth, rocket fueled I believe he claimed, would soar past 4%. 5% and even 6%. 

In Biden's first year it was over 5%.

Moreover, he said he would reduce our national debt, at an appalling 20 trillion dollars when he took office. Guess what? It was $27.8 trillion when he was done raiding the national treasury and piling up debt for shit like a useless border wall, pork-filled Pentagon expenditures and skyrocketing costs for security for himself and all his sleazy family. Mary Trump, excluded.

He also bragged that because of his stellar business acumen, unemployment had reached a historic low of 3.5%. I don't know if you've read the papers but unemployment is once again 3.5% under the watchful eye of President Joe Biden.

But I digress, let's get back to the latest in a series of crises this fuckknuckle has foisted upon our once great nation. 

The same twatwaffle who tried to blackmail Ukraine into a bogus investigation of the Biden family. 

The same cretinous imbecile who pushed Russian disinformation and spilled Code Word intelligence to Sergei Lavrov. 

The same fishbrained fascist who, according the Mueller Report, obstructed justice in 10 clear instances.

The same flim-flamming TV game show host who had to pay $25 million fine for running a scam University for get rich quick Red Hat losers.

The same ethically bankrupt tramp who incited thousands to march on and then attack the Capitol.

The same narcissistic jackwagon who perpetrated the Big Lie, with no evidence, and failed to execute his Constitutional duty to provide a peaceful transfer of power.

The same sad sack of diseased haggis that sentenced a million Americans to the Dirt Nap because he refused to take any responsibility for Covid.

The same beslubbering wagtail who picked a fight with China and had his fat mottled ass handed to him.

The same fly-bitten coxcomb who promised us a big new beautiful healthcare system but lost it on his way to play his 8,734th round of golf.

Am I laying it on too thick? 

Hardly, because for reasons unknown there are still millions and millions of so-called patriotic Americans who irrationally give him a pass for all his transgressions including the latest, the confiscation of Code Word And Top Secret information that heretofore could only be seen in a heavily fortified SCIF. I leave that to his double digit IQ followers to Google.

He can dance and shuffle the facts anyway he likes, including: I declassified those documents, I was ready to hand them over if someone just asked, the "dirty" FBI (led by a Shitgibbon appointee) planted evidence
to discredit me, but none of it passes the smell test. In fact it all smells like three day old Filet O'Fish samiches.

I do know that had President Obama, or any number of lesser ranking Democrats, done the same thing, the flagwavers, boat paraders and the tiki torch holders would be screaming for blood.

What I don't know is how any of them can find a legitimate excuse for his criminal behavior, but thanks to Jesse Waters, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Greg Gutfeld, and host of other blinded sycophants, but they most certainly will.


Monday, August 15, 2022

1,000,073 miles apart

This is the scenic 15 mile Ojai to Ventura bike trail. It's quite different than the Ballona Creek Bike Path I have ridden regularly for the past 35 years or so. 

What the O2V trail has in the way of aromatic eucalyptus trees and bucolic scenery, the Ballona Creek Path has in runoff sewage water, busted shopping carts, and endless encampments of homeless people living underneath an overpass. 

Additionally, the O2V trail is smooth and paved with latest in asphalt technology and is a joy to pedal on. The Ballona Creek Path has remained choppy and chock full of potholes since the very first day of my virgin ride. A time when I had hair, muscular calfs, and the aerobic wherewithal to go 50 miles at a clip.

The differences couldn't be any starker.

Oh wait, yes they could. 

Because while riding the O2V trail, about 5 miles up and 2 hours of walking distance away from the nearest bike shop, I got a flat tire. Never a fun experience but also not one I was unaccustomed to. Unfortunately, the tires I had recently installed with a total bike refurbishing are called Gator Skins, and like the name would imply they grip onto the rim like a famished reptile snagging a tasty, slow flying pelican.

After much cursing and cajoling, I finally unleashed the flat tube from it bondage and carefully replaced it with a new $20 tube. Then like Ahab fighting the great leviathan, I fought mightily to get the damn Gator Skin back on. Only to inflate the new tire and watch it go flat, AGAIN.

This is where the contrast between the trails becomes even more evident than the smells and sights which define two distinctively different parts of Southern California.

As my friend watched and giggled as I struggled to change a tire and salvage what was left of my masculinity. Then a young man, let's call him Brennan, because that's the name his parents gave him,  coming from the opposite direction, literally stopped in his tracks to offer us assistance.

Stranded, with not a clue how to resolve this awkward situation, I reluctantly agreed to let Brennan have a go at it.

He too had a fitfull struggle to remove the once-already-removed Gator Skin. Unlike me, he insisted the best way to replace the tube was to unhinge both sides of the tire wall. OK, I thought, who am I to argue with a complete stranger taking time out of his pleasant Saturday ride to assist two hapless seniors. Or, more accurately, one hapless senior and one bemused spectator.

Brennan's meticulous operation took considerably longer than mine. But we were convinced this strapping young man knew better. But he didn't. Because when he was done, he was considerably less marked up with bruises and cuts (I now have 'old man skin'), but again the new tube went flat.

He could have left us in the shade of a crooked eucalyptus tree and said, "good luck" but he didn't. 

Instead he called for his wife to bring the truck around to a service road that ran parallel to the path and gave us a lift, with both our bikes, to the nearest bike shop.

It was by far the most generous, thoughtful deed of unselfishness that I have witnessed in a very long time. 

Perhaps it was the universe's way of repaying me for assisting a sad, drug-hazed Latina girl with bleach blond hair just two days earlier and forcing her to accept $20 dollars (unsolicited) so she could get a meal for herself and her poor little doggie.

As he went back to his truck, I said, "let us buy you a beer. Or two." 

He politely declined and said, in typical Brennan fashion (though we had only spent an hour and a half together), "thanks, I can't, but have a great day and please pay it forward."

Consider it done Brennan.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Uncivil War

When this ignorant sociopathic monster was elected president in November 2016, I knew things were going to get bad. I think most of us did. But most of us also miscalculated. We had no idea how bad it would get. And continues to worsen even after his unceremonious departure from the White House.

I knew from watching several tawdry episodes of The Apprentice what a colossal shill and total fraud he was. His purported business acumen wasn't just a blend of bluster and horsecockery, it was a sham. And a tired week in week out repeat of the same formulaic swill that had nothing to do with the business world. At least not the corporate business world I had spent a lifetime working in.

He pitted people against each other.

He lauded shameless self promotion over teamwork.

And he favored marketing gimmickry over anything strategic or substantive.

He was never a businessman or a builder or a leader, he was a loudmouth blowhard who only had money because his father gave it to him.

Oh and he slathers his well done steak with ketchup. I've broken business bread with millionaires and billionaires and never witnessed that kind of low rent table decorum.

Fast forward to Monday August 8, 2022. And the nightmare not only continues, it is now reaching peak jackfuckery levels. 

As we all know the FBI raided at Mara Lago, to retrieve 15 boxes of Classified material. Some of the Classified intel is so Classified that the authorities would not even discuss how Classified the Classified material was. 

That's some Men in Black shit.

And now the interwebs, particularly Gab, Parlor and Truth Social are brimming openly with talk of Civil War. A repeat and a frightful escalation of the January 6th Tourist Visit. 

If that weren't enough, much of this seditious talk is being fomented by ex Precedent Shitgibbon and his degenerate progeny.

Editor's Note: For the past 6-7 years I have purposefully misspelt the word President. A clever little trap I invented to goad Red Hats into saying things like, "Dude you don't even know how to spell President." To which I would counter, "Neither does Captain Ouchie Foot." And then point out the many times he mistakenly interchanged the two homophones.

Will there be violence in the streets? 

Or is this just testosterone-fueled bravado on the part of his fishbrained followers who to this day don't realize they have been conned by a master snake oil salesman who could sell snake oil back to a snake.

Too bad he couldn't sell vodka, water, steaks, wine or anything else he slapped his shabby name on. 

For the sake of this country I long for the day when the media no longer gives this man any oxygen. And can't wait for the planet to follow suit.

Fuck Trump.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

A Must-Have Reference Book

As of late, I've had a renewed interest in etymology. Perhaps it's because I'm writing more these days and I'm actively seeking new words and new modes of expression. Or perhaps it's because I'm weaning myself off certain medications and trying to navigate an uncertain future.

In any case, I've always had a certain fascination with words. Particularly when spoken aloud. It gave rise to many of my nicknames for the former president. For example Captain Fuckknuckle, Colonel Ouchie Foot or President Shitgibbon. 

I like these multisyllabic monikers because they trip off the tongue in a pleasing way. My friend Paul knows the proper terminology for this phrasing. I have forgotten it. Paul's a 2nd grade school teacher with a twisted mind and a nose for the obscure. He once showed me a tiny Jewish cemetery in the High Sierras along Rt. 395 that was no bigger than 25 square feet and is the eternal resting home for 5 hearty MOTs.   

I'm sure if he reads this blog post he'll send me a text: "It's called ____________, numbnuts."

You can imagine my excitement when I stumbled across the book pictured above. And yes, it is a literal dictionary. Some people get excited by silly foam illustrations on their lattes, or the latest iteration on the iPhone 13+, now with .03 centimeters more screen, I get excited about dictionaries.

I don't remember if someone suggested this book. I get a lot of suggestions. I even get requests. 

"You should do a blog about Rand Paul."

"You should do a blog about antisemitism in Japan."

"You should do a blog about people suggesting you do a blog."

But I am glad I splurged for the 17 bucks and had the Amazon driver, who must be tired of coming to my house, drop off a copy. I was immediately enamored with the title -- I'm a sucker for the mysterious grouping of words -- that hardly informs the reader of the content. 

So I will.

In this highly unusual book, the author has compiled a plethora of neologisms for emotions as yet undefined by the good folks at Webster. Put more pedantically, he makes up words for shit we have no words for.

Case in Point:

Sonder - n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

I can't begin to tell you how much I love that. Not because the "word" sonder means anything to anybody. And will probably not enter our lexicon like other more recent neologisms, ie. Cheugy.

But the definition of Sonder is chock full of insight about the human condition. Because we all tend to view the world from a limited self-centered perspective, which as sentient beings is understandable. However it would behoove us all to realize we share this time and this space with 8 billion other people and act accordingly.

I'll leave you with one more. And perhaps this one hits home because as a 64 year old man/widow/father I can't help but look at old photos with regret, sorrow and melancholy.

Daguerreologue - N. an imaginary conversation with an old photo of yourself, in which you might offer them a word of advice -- to banish your worries, soak it all in, or shape up before it's too late -- or maybe just ask them if they thought you had done justice to the life they built for you.

I would have reminded my former self to get the industrial-strength Minoxidol and stick with it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Knots Meandering

I love the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. I loved the book by Arthur Clark even more because the book doesn't leave much in the way of ambiguity as Kubrick did in the film.

How many for instance, know that the eery Black Monoliths were left on Earth and all over our universe as touchstones from an ancient, exponentially-more-advanced civilization that had mastered the time space continuum? This would account for the mysterious nonlinear leaps in time that occur frequently in the film. 

Of particular note is the scene depicted above. It happens at the beginning of the movie with soaring majestic music to denote the monumental rise of human evolution -- namely the turning of a sturdy thighbone of a carcass into a useful hunting tool.

The transition from this scene to the spaceship floating a million miles and a million years away is an image I will never forget. 

Bad segue here, but earlier this week, and for algorithms unknown, I had a video pop up in my Facebook Feed. It was similar to the top down POV videos of someone making Chicken Cordon Bleu or Bacon Wrapped Shrimp. It demonstrated the proper way to make a Sheepshead Knot. And now that I am writing about knots I am guaranteed to see more and more of these knot making vids.

Which is fine with me, because there's certain elegance and aesthetic to knots that I find fascinating. For instance, I submit the unarguable beauty of the Figure 8 Loop...

Knots tickle my brain in the same way the clever primate, Neandarthal, Cro-Magnon, Homo Erectus, I'm sure my learned friend George Tannenbaum could tell you, happened upon the ideal way to smash a wild boar to the ground with one swift blow to the head. 

Mmmmm, feral bacon!!!

I find myself imagining the first time one of our ancestors not only fashioned a rope from the threads of a Bamboo plant, you know before the Chinese made fake Biden Ballots out of it, and clumsily twisted the ends together to form an early fastening device. I'm guessing there was quite a bit of trial and error involved as well as many collapsed lean two's or huts or whatever Early Man lived in. Again, George would know.

This mysterious synapse chain is not only confined to rope knots. 

What trigger went off and informed the earliest of carnivores to take the flesh he, or she, had harvested and put it on an open flame? Prior to that, no animal on Earth had ever eaten cooked food. 

Similarly, what concoctive and swarthy primate decided to scramble the first egg on a hot stone? And then eons later, flip it over to make a rudimentary omelette. And then eons after that, stuff it with peppers, mushrooms, feral ham, to make a special omelette that would give rise to the city of Denver?

I scratch my chin and wonder about the origins of soap, clothing, and the Bundt Cake.

Maybe I need a new hobby, but even as just a casual writer and self-confessed word slut, I am intrigued and can't help but to be enamored by variations and names of knots:

* The Square Knot

* The Half Hitch

* The Sheepshead

* The Kleimheist

* The Rapala

* The Carrick Bend (who could forget that one?)

* The Rat Tail Stopper 

* The Soft Shackle Edwards

* The Man-O-War Sheepshank (maybe it's me, but I love a knot name that requires hyphens and trips off the tongue with a pleasing rhythm)

That's all for today, I want to spend some quality time thinking about how the anti-perspirant came about.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Blessing #20 -- Chopped Salad


It takes a special kind of person to put the welfare of others above the welfare of oneself. We see it in first responders all the time. Cops running to the scene of a crime. Firefighters running into infernos. And ad sales reps going out for chopped salad and some simple pesto and pasta.

Allow me to explain. 

Astute readers may remember I posted this story about 7 years ago. But I'm retelling it, and updating it, because I can think of nothing better that captures Deb's heart and her indefatigable spirit of caring. 

I had convinced her to go Alejo's Italian Restaurant on Lincoln Blvd.

We used to frequent the place quite often, as the bread is fresh baked and there's never a long wait to get a table. My two most important criteria for picking a restaurant in Los Angeles.

However, Alejo's had fallen out of favor recently, its frumpy dining room no longer as appetizing as it once was when my wife and I were escorting two screaming toddlers. I blame the rise of foodism and food snobbery perpetrated by countless food-based reality TV shows.

And yet, through the power of persuasion and some well-honed marital passive aggressiveness, I was able to convince Deb to go back to Alejo's. Their chopped salad is second to none. And in addition to a dish of salty anchovies on the side, this is what a successful marriage is all about. Give and take. Compromise. 

She agrees to cheap Italian food.
I agree to give up a weekend to shop for new an inordinately-expensive living room furniture.

On the way to the restaurant, it was raining. Not newsworthy in any other part of the country, but here in Southern California I've seen more water coming out of my neighbor's hose, in order to wash his two white trash monster trucks, than I've seen fall from the sky.

Heading towards Lincoln Blvd and hugging the median of Jefferson Blvd., I slowed down because the woman in the Honda Civic in front of me appeared to be making a left turn.

But then, she wasn't.

At 50+ mph the car veered left and then, a split second later, veered right. She missed the road sign by a centimeter. And then, in the middle of fast moving traffic she slammed on the brakes and parked the car in the far left lane. The door swung open and the woman leapt from the car, hunched over and appeared to be returning her lunch to Mother Earth. More accurately a non-porous cement median.

I stopped too. I had no other option. And came within inches of her plastic bumper.

And before I could look in my rearview mirror for oncoming traffic, Deb had unbuckled, swung the door open and jumped out of the car and ran to assist the hurling Ms. Mario Andretti. And hug her. And comfort her. 

I've never needed hazard lights before and despite the superb Japanese ergonomic design on my old Lexus, could not locate my flashers. So I quickly skedaddled over to the right. And because there is no shoulder on Jefferson Blvd., I had to find the nearest street to turn off and park the car. 

About 1/4 mile away!

I ran through the uneven sidewalks, which is more like a lunar landscape thanks to the roots of Chinese Elm trees bursting through the pavement. And I caught a mouthful of dirty rainwater when a truck rolled by and tore through a puddle that would not be there 364 other days of the year.

When I reached the spot where my wife was, she wasn't.

And neither was the Honda Civic.

I yelled her name in the pouring rain.

She was gone.

I ran back to my car. Called her cell phone. And then I heard the ringing of her cell phone in her purse, which was still in the driver's seat of my car. 

I drove back to the scene of the near accident and couldn't find her. Circled around again, in this stretch that had no streetlights, and still couldn't find her. Without her phone, she couldn't find me.

It was all playing out like a bad Jeff Bridges movie.

What if she's gone?
What if Panicky Vomiting Lady kidnapped her?
What if I never see my wife again?

A thousand questions flooded my brain.

After circling round and round again, I finally spotted her near the parking lot of Home Depot. She was drenched. And crying. And shaking uncontrollably. 

When we arrived at Alejo's she explained how the woman had an anxiety attack, was temporarily blinded and literally immobilized. Thankfully, my first responder, was there to talk her down from the ledge. To this day, the entire incident plays out like a nightmarish movie, shot dimly, in black and blue overtones. 

A small random act of heroism by Debbie, for a total stranger in need of help, because that's who she was. 

Note to self: need more boxes of tissues.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Different Trump, Same Con


Many times I don't know what I'm going to write on these pages until I actually start writing. And meandering. And re-ordering to make some semblance of a point. Or just get a cheap laugh. 

Both equally valuable in the difficult times we live in.

And sometimes, a post or the subject of a post comes from the ether. It strikes like lightening. And I'd be a fool to walk away from sharing it. That day is today. And the bolt comes via Scott M., a Linkedin connection I have never worked with or even met in person, but someone, who, for reasons unknown, is a regular reader of this little inconsequential blog.

To get the full measure of its impact, I highly recommend watching this 22 minute show that comes across like a Twilight Zone episode.

See if you can count how many prescient moments spring to mind. 

It's more than uncanny.

Here it is for your mindblowing moment of Zen.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

A jury of my cretins

I hope I never have to spend a night in a hospital. 

If I do, I'm hoping one of you good people will bring me some decent food, like a schwarma plate or 1/2 roast chicken from Versailles. The notion of eating that hospital slop is enough to make my gall bladder explode, which would only result in more nights in the hospital. And a gastronomic death spiral that would surely induce PTSD.

Similarly, I never want to spend another night in jail. 

Been there, done that. Don't want to do it again. And so I keep my life on the straight and narrow. Which has become even more difficult in the perilous and surreal times we live in.

The law says you shall be judged by a "jury of your peers." That scares the possibly-impacted shit out of me. Have you seen or listened to my "peers?"

My peers, and by the Transitive Law of Association are also your peers, are on the non-stop train to Wackytown. 

Here, for the purposes of elucidation, are just some of the things many potential jurors might/could/do believe in:

* The Earth is flat. They can't tell you why, despite pictures from NASA, logic and the simple observation off a boat sailing past the horizon, they just "know" it's flat. Or in the words of our former POTUS, "subjectively believe" it's flat. 

* The Holocaust is actually a Holohoax. I didn't make up that word. It's in the actual lexicon in the handbook of White Supremacy. Also, there is no handbook of White Supremacy, there are thousands of them. Covering everything from eugenics to the blood libel that Jews eat little gentile children. 

I don't eat frog's legs and many parts of the cow that I find repulsive. I can't picture myself, even if marooned in the Donner Pass, gnawing on some toddler ribs. "Pass me little Tiffany's femur, please."

* The 2020 Election was stolen. Not all of the election mind you, just the presidential section of the ballot. All those Republican victories in the House and the Senate were legitimately earned and unscathed by the evil, cheating DemonRats. Who, in possession of the apparent undetectable means to change votes and seal a victory for Joe Biden, inexplicably failed to employ those techniques on the down ballot sections!

This last point is perhaps the scariest and represents an existential threat to our democracy. Oh I'm sorry, as many Right Winger Word Police will point out, we live in a "Republic." Right, but despite having not one shred of evidence, they cling to the absurd and Neandarthal belief that ex Precedent Shitgibbon was robbed. 

They say it's impossible Joe Biden garnered 81 million votes. I still can't believe Captain Ouchie Foot garnered ONE.

Last Sunday, in an interview on Fox News, GOP gubernatorial candidate and MAGA proxy Tudor Nixon (so on the nose) told Brett Baier she had "very serious concerns about the results of the 2020 election". And that many of her constituents shared those concerns and are pushing for greater Election Integrity. 

Can we back that truck up and acknowledge the only reason why "Americans" distrust the election results is because they were spoonfed that baseless horsecockery.

From the likes of MyShillowGuy™(ex-crack addict turned millionaire turned crack addict again), Sidney Powell (the NY Jets of American attorneys), Rudy Giuliani (unpaid publicist for Four Seasons Total Landscaping) and Colonel Fuckknuckle (the only twice impeached ex president who is now under criminal investigation for inciting a coup.)

I can't help but to be reminded of the time I not only sat on a jury, but was promptly selected to be the jury foreman. It was an open-and-shut case of a 7-11 robbery that featured the whole caper caught on crystal clear 7-11 HD security cameras. 

After 15 minutes of discussion we took a vote that produced a commanding 11-1 vote. When the unconvinced juror identified himself, he was quickly confronted by the older black woman seated next to me...who, despite her excessive girth, leaped out of her chair with a fiery retort, and this is verbatim...

"Boy, did you not see that goddamned video? I want to get home to watch my soaps, so you better change your vote before I come across this table and slap the stupid out of you!!"

He wasted little time scratching the word NOT off his little slip of yellow legal pad paper.

This fucking country needs the stupid slapped out of it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Down the Rabbet Joint Hole

Last Thursday I told the tale of how I began my adventures as a fledgling writer working on the IBM Selectric II that my father bought for me. Somehow I forgot to include the story of the handy dandy 25 lbs. walnut (heavy) carrying case that my father made for me.

As you can see I still have it, nearly 50 years after he measured, measured again, cut, cut again (probably), sanded, varnished, jointed, hinged and completed his first real woodworking project.

It sits in my daughter's old bedroom (perhaps it will become my new woodworking studio) and houses her various art supplies. She's very creative, not so much with words, but more visually oriented. 

My father's carpenter journey is worth retelling (even if I've told it before). 

Following the wayward years of his misspent youth, including hanging out with mooks like the fellow on the left (Dad on the right). I accidentally came across this picture -- which I had never seen before -- last week ,while looking for something else.

And a disastrous year of incarceration while in the Army for Reefer Madness in 1947. Fortunately, my father turned his life around. 180 degrees around. Married, worked, went to college at night, worked two jobs, got his CPA, saved, worked some more, bought a house, raised three kids, kept working, and built a comfortable nest egg for himself.

But being of a restless nature, and having conquered many life obstacles, including three rounds of Outward Bound, my father was always looking for a challenge. And what could be more challenging to a Bronx-born, Jewish accountant, who'd never held a Phillips head screwdriver in his hand than the magical, gentile world of Finish Carpentry.

Shortly after buying a house in Suffern, NY, he became acutely aware of the cost of maintaining said home. Including all the expensive repair work that needed to be done. Being frugal by nature and necessity, he didn't want any part of paying someone to do work he believed he could do himself. Television, and the good folks at Time Life, came to rescue.

Before long, we had every colorful book in the Time Life DIY Series:

Do Your Own Plumbing
Electricity Made Easy
Power Tools and the Powerful Men that Use Them.

As it is in my case, it could be said of my father, "If he's in for dime, he's in for a dollar." 

And so his love of saving money on home repairs escalated into furniture you can make on your own. With every new woodworking book that landed on our coffee table came a trip to the local Rickle's (East Coast predecessor to Home Depot and Lowe's) for a grinder, a router, a two-handed miter saw and a monstrously large, dangerous looking, Radial Arm Saw, which scared the shit out of my mother.

Every free moment he had was spent making shit, for instance the IBM Selectric carrying case. I don't know where he thought I'd be carrying that anvil-like typewriter. Portability was not among the Selectric II's selling points. 

From there he progressed with Siegel-like determination to crafting end tables, bookshelves, credenzas, etc. If there was wood involved, my father knew he could make it into something.

My buddies would often come over to pick me up for a night of trouble, greet my mother, "Hey Mrs. Siegel" and on the way out the door rib me with, "Hey what's Al building today?" My mother was always Mrs. Siegel, my father was always Al.

His carpentry capers culminated with the construction of a true Finnish Sauna off the master bathroom, a stunning replica of the one he had seen in the TL book. Not dissimilar to this.

Before he succumbed to prostate cancer in 1989, he had once last dream. He wanted to combine his mastery of maple, oak and walnut with his newfound love of equally un-Bronx-like nature: sailing. Which he discovered while in Maine on a 10 day excusrion with the aforementioned Outward Bound.

To that end he set about looking into building his own 35 foot Chris Craft sailboat. The good folks at Chris Craft actually had a kit for skilled woodworkers like my father.

And I don't have the slightest doubt in my mind that he would have done it and it would have been beautiful.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: FUCK CANCER!


As an addendum and because last week's plea for a housekeeper worked out, I need the name and number of a good carpenter. This house needs so much work. Send me your people.

Monday, August 1, 2022

The Tale of Sophia Lin

Since the advent of the Internet there have been a panoply (I intend to overuse this word until I have successfully made it part of the regular vernacular of the peasantry, much the way my daughter engineered the popularity of the word Cheugy) of Internet scammers.

With way too much time on my hands, I have made it a regular habit to scam the scammers. It's officially known as scambaiting and while some collect Tiki Mugs, rebuild old cars, or trim tiny little bonsai trees, scambaiting is a hobby of mine.

Who can forget Tuesdays with Mantu, My Adventures with a Nigerian Con Artist?

Or my many escapades with Illuminati -- Just pop Illuminati in the blog search button for all those entries?

And one of my prouder moments when I was tried to gain membership at the Doral Country Club and Golf Course, an esteemed Trump property in South Florida? Or is it esteamed?

Lately there's been a rash of postings on my Facebook page, maybe yours as well, to the effect of: " I really like what you post and want to know you better. Can you send me a friend request?" 

These are clear fraudsters and way to tempting to pass up, as they usually come from very attractive young women and are targeted to old men like myself. BTW, Deb never had a problem with my flirtatious correspondence and would often joke: 

"How many times do I have to tell you Rich, if you can find another woman on this Earth to put up with you, she's more than welcome :)."

So when Sophia Lin came knocking, I knocked back. I didn't send her a friend request. I didn't have to. She she sent me a private DM.

Plus, I'm a friendly guy. I like making new friends.

Sophia preferred to talk privately as some of my FB friends were making derogatory remarks about this obvious scammer.

How slick of me to pivot on people with evil internet intentions? I'm pretty wonderful aren't I?

Sensing she's got a live one on the hook, Sophia, unsolicited, begins to add chum to the water with miniskirt pictures. Who doesn't love miniskirt pictures?

Then for reasons unknown -- I suspect she has another victim on the line -- she starts speaking to me in Dutch. 

Then she tells me she's been divorced for a year. But her profile says "she's" been divorced since 2018. Gotta keep your story and your languages straight Sophia.

Time to start cranking up the fiction on my end.

Did I freely borrow from Seinfeld? Yes, yes I did.

I told you I was wonderful. Also the move to What's App is another scammer telltale. What's App is encrypted so there would be no trace of "her" fraudulent activity.

Sophia puts more bait out there, because why not?

What's App? Is that what it's called?

I let a day or two go by. I do have other things in life that need attending to. But Sophia is persistent and determined to get at some of my money.

I wasn't about to give her my cell phone number which is required on What', What'sApp. 

Then I come clean and turn the table on young "Sophia" by asking her for the exact same thing these scammers ask of their intended victim -- A Google Play Card.

The student has now become the teacher.

It took her a while but she did get to know me. 

And with that I had the very satisfying last word.

I know it's all very juvenile, but there's a 99% chance I was dealing with a Gamer teenage boy who pilfered some pictures from some young lady's instagram and thought he could score some easy Gaming credit. 

If there's one thing I've learned in all my years in advertising, you gotta speak the same language as your market.