Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Confessions from a Foodie


Although we didn't eat Turkey for Thanksgiving, I'm still suffering from post-holiday, faux-tryptophan fatigue, and so here's one more post regarding our recent trip to Joshua Tree.

Having exhausted ourselves from driving, hiking, and tip toeing around each other's frail sensibilities, we decided to go out to eat on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Knowing the options in this remote high desert area would be slim, I commissioned my daughters to find us a good place to chow down.

They have a nose for this kind of thing. And besides it would provide me with an excellent opportunity to score some Dad points, which I apparently need to do after all my years of paternal transgressions.

They located a restaurant named Pappy & Harriet's, which is in Pioneertown, and not technically Joshua Tree. Given that we had time on our hand and a mission to mend our once amicable relationship, I thought, what the hell, what's driving another 25 miles gonna cost me if it makes them happy?

Keep in mind however that 25 miles on a windy, dark desert road, smeared with the carcasses (or is the plural, carci?) of foxes, possums and jackelopes is no small feat. 

We arrived at the nighttime oasis, which seemed to gather locals the way moths are drawn to magnesium-fueled bonfire, at 7 o'clock hoping to beat the "crowd." But the parking lot was jelly-tight with pick up trucks and RVs. Many adorned with bumper stickers that read: Let's Go Brandon.

The unnecessarily rude hostess told my daughter the earliest we could be seated would be 9 o'clock. And we'd have to listen to the live band that was playing that night, Jethro and Carburetor Calibrators.

At that point, it was time for Dad to make an executive call. And off we were back to Yucca Valley and a visit to the local Applebees. 

It must be noted that I abhor chain restaurants. And with the exception of Olive Garden, my girls do too. Only they can explain their unbound love for OG's as they colloquially refer to it. The only thing chain restaurants have going for it is consistency, albeit consistently sub-par. Nevertheless, the devil cook you know is better than the devil cook you don't.

After much grumbling, we pulled in, and should have left immediately when we were greeted by three young 18 year olds at the front desk. Two of them were eating. And the third had some unidentifiable cheese sauce on her cheek.

Turned out the shoddy greeting was the best part of the meal. Suffice it to say, "We were not eating' good in the neighborhood."

The crispy chicken sandwich was not crispy.

The french fried potatoes were barely thawed.

And the server, a man (and manbun) in his late 30's, who was working his second night on the job, was MIA.

I understand that I'm running the risk of appearing like some Westside food snob, I am not. Truth is, I spent many years working as a line cook at these kind of restaurants, including TGIF, Cheesecake Factory, Denny's, etc. It is hard, hot, sweaty work, with very little in the way of rewards or advancement. 

In other words, I understand the temptation to sleepwalk through the shift. Workers at these places invented the notion of "quiet quitting."

Thankfully, Applebee's serves ice cold draft beer in their patented and aptly named pint sized glasses...

If I were the CEO of Applebee's, I'd start with the refreshing Brewtus glass and build the entire brand around that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Let the Father beware

For the first time in a very long time, we spent Thanksgiving away from home. 

I don't know about you but I dread the travel associated with holidays. I prefer the comforts of my own home, like running out of underwear but having the wherewithal to wrap a towel around my now-shrinking waistline, and throwing a new load in the washer while the Detroit Lions continue their Thanklessgiving Day tradition of losing.

Fortunately this year's travel did not necessitate a heart-stopping visit to LAX. Instead, we traveled to nearby Joshua Tree via the friendly freeways of Los Angeles. The 2 hour drive on a Wednesday afternoon only took a tad bit over 5 hours. 

Nevertheless it was well worth it. 

If you haven't been to Joshua Tree, and you appreciate the desert, as half my ancestors did some three thousand years ago, by all means go. Just not on the Wednesday, Brake Light Wednesday, before Thanksgiving. Here's a preview...

I included the shot of the billboard featuring some of the local businesses in Joshua Tree as a means of transition to the topic of commerce.

You see, after a moderately challenging hike to the 49 Palms Canyon, my daughters wanted to spend a day thrifting -- the abbreviated, conjugated verb of thrift shop shopping. That gave my brother and I more time to consume beer, watch football and renew our 60 plus year of sibling rivalry on the Cornhole court.

When the girls returned, Rachel told me she had filled up the car with fuel. How thoughtful and sweet, I said to myself, shamefully thinking I don't give my girls enough credit. 

The filling up of the gas tank came with its own little story.

"There was only one gas station nearby and we didn't want to get stranded, this being way out here in the high desert. But the gas station had this yellow tape wrapped around the two pumps. The only thing they had left was the green nozzle. I think the green means its eco-friendly. So I filled up the tank with that. Plus, it was cheaper."

I put down my beer which was no longer cold and quickly gaining heat from the blood boiling throughout my body. I took a deep breath (per my therapist's suggestion) and worked mightily to control the lava-like words that were about to shoot from my mouth.

"You filled up the car with DIESEL!"

At this point, my mind went blank. Green is diesel right? Eco-friendly fuel? How did she she drive back here? I was ready to explode. But before I did, Rachel, and Abby, who was surreptitiously filming me on her iPhone the entire time, burst out laughing.

Moments later, I was to find out that this little scenario is a meme floating around Tik Tok. Unless it has to do with our former president (I still can't believe that schmuck was in our White House) I'm always late to contemporary social media culture. But apparently the "Tell Your Dad You Put Diesel In The Car and Film His Reaction" schtick is very popular.

Who knows, by now, my daughter who helped make Cheugy a household phrase, may be trending on Tik Tok with her redfaced dad.

Pretty funny, I told my girls, but I'm no stranger to the well-played prank. 

No stranger at all.

Monday, November 28, 2022

The dirt on Sportswashing

Learned a new phrase last night at dinner in Old Town Pasadena-- Sportswashing

I also learned that sending a salad back to the kitchen is a risky endeavor.

Sportswashing came up during a discussion of the World Cup. It's in Qatar of all places. It should be noted Qatar is to human rights as ex Precedent Shitgibbon is to ethics, honesty and green vegetables. You can learn more here.

On the day of this writing, Qatar had just prohibited the sale of alcohol at all 9 venues built for the WC festivities, which will be significantly less festive. I'm not much a soccer fan and prefer my football played the American way, with trash talk, plastic armor wear and 300+ lbs. men crushing the living shit out of each other. 

But what I do know? 

Well, I do know that soccer fans love their beer. 

Though in all liklihood, how many soccer hooligans are going to board a British Airways flight to hop on down to sun baked Qatar? Knowing the tendency of fair-skinned Brits, they'd need to pack huge jugs of SPF 50 sunscreen just to step onto the tarmac.

Sportswashing, that is the thinly-veiled affiliation with international sporting events in order to curry PR points with the unwashed masses, has been around for quite a while. 

I'm hoping the photo of Herr Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games doesn't land me in the digital slammer but the notion of a fascist, antisemitic country trying to bolster its international image is very apparent. Which is a real shame because it's my understanding the 1930's produced a bevy of talented Jewish athletes. you know, before (((we))) got into the global domination game via worldwide media and banking control. 

You're welcome, Ye.

Perhaps the most egregious display of Sportswashing comes to us from the wonderful world of golf, which I'm not so sure should be considered athletics. I don't think anyone could look at Ray Floyd and John Daly (again, I'm dating myself) and say, "Now, those two guys are athletes."

Of course I'm referring to the breakaway LIV tour sponsored by the world's number 1 ranked abuser of human rights, Saudi Arabia. And naturally LIV is associated with the world's number 1 abuser of all-you- can-eat dessert bars, ex Precedent Shitgibbon. 

These cads, in their plaid pants and designer polo shirts, left the PGA to give credibility to a sham tour designed for the express purpose of detracting from Saudi atrocities. Does the Never Forget Red Hat crowd not recall that 15 of the 19 perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks were from this overheated hellhole?

Not to mention their abusive treatment of women and the criminalization of the LGBTQ community. It is 2022, god, if he or she or it exists, does not give a rat's ass what two men or two women or two women and one man or two men and one woman or two men and an unspecified furry, do behind closed doors. 

Why on Earth are we deriving our moral code according to the whims and fancies of ignorant Abrahamic shepherds and goat herders from 1500, 2000 or even 3000 years ago? 

That's all I have to say on Sportswashing. Oh and that I probably won't be watching a minute of the 2022 World Cup. 

Mostly because (apologies to my friends Paul and Colin) it's not really football, is it?

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Wherein, I give Thanks.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A holiday that presents its own difficulties for me and my family, as it will be the first without Deb.

As many of you know I lost my wife last December. My daughters lost their mother. My family lost the glue that bound us. 

Suffice it to say, the last year has been the most difficult in all my 64 spent here on Earth. As many of you also know, Grief is a searing pain, that dulls over time but then rears its head unexpectedly and with the impact of a well-placed uppercut.

Nevertheless, I want to give thanks because I am grateful and choose to take this time and space to acknowledge that.

I'm thankful for my daughters, who made the day-to-day living possible. They put their grief on hold and consoled me, lived with me and picked up life's duties when I simply couldn't. Without them, nothing would be possible.

Similarly, I need to thank my three sisters-in-law and my brother for seeing me through days when I was broken, numbed over and could not function.

And I'm thankful for the many, many friends who fed us, comforted us, and came to our aid, sometimes reeling from the uncomfortableness of it all, to be at our side. For fear of missing a name or two or a dozen, I won't name names, you know who you are. 

But I do want to give special acknowledgement to my friend of 40 years/ my former boss/my writing partner/ my accomplice on so many laugh-filled adventures, Jim Jennewein. He dropped everything on his plate to fly out from Brooklyn and shack up for a week in my living room on a crappy air mattress next to the doggie bed. In addition to his oversized heart, Professor Jim has the wisdom of a Talmudic scholar, albeit one who went to Catholic High School and Notre Dame and never memorized the Beatitudes.

I want to thank the widows and widowers I knew from my Suffern High School days, Nancy, Bob and Other Nancy. Who emerged from the blue and proffered their unique perspective about being in the Club No One Wants to be In. They have helped and continue to help me walk this difficult unchartered path that has yielded unexpected personal growth.

Thanks are also due to my therapists, individual and family, Christina, Michael and Mathew who have and helped and continue to help me, help myself. 

I want to thank Ms. Muse, for randomly populating my world, renewing my sense of joy, tickling my sense of humor and revitalizing my love of cycling. Oh and baking the finest chocolate chip cookies.

I want to thank my friends/co-workers at PayPal Honey or Honey Paypal who gave me a second chance after submitting a Subject Line: Here's what's trending besides football and Nicki Minaj's cousin's swollen testicles.

I want to thank the readers of this blog, who have reached out publicly and privately. I don't know why anyone would want to read my daily screeds, but I'm glad you do.

And I want to give thanks to Universe for the 180 degree course correction and for rewarding my resilience and pointing me in the direction of what I thought was impossible -- Happiness.

That is the way Deb would've wanted it. 

Of that, I'm certain.

Hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Trolling in Culver City

This is one of the underpasses along the Ballona Creek Bike Path. 

It's a path I've been riding along for the past 35 years. And a great way to get from my humble abode in Culver City to the ocean without having to navigate traffic and careless drivers who are texting their spouse what they'd like for dinner or applying makeup via their rearview mirrors.

Last week the local FB page reported that due to the underpass overcrowding and post apocalyptic conditions, the homeless people or if I want to be politically correct, those suffering from homelessness, had been moved out of their rent-free quarters.

I, for one, couldn't be happier. 

The situation had become untenable (see pic above). And every time Ms. Muse and I would ride under one of our scenic underpasses there was always the danger that we'd be confronted by people suffering a mental condition, or addled by drugs, or worse, both, and in serious want of an expensive bicycle which could be sold on the black market.

Indeed I left a comment to that effect on the FB page and was quickly taken to task by a young lady who said these unfortunate people had more to fear from people like me than the other way around. 


I asked, if this were a gut feeling on her part. Or if it was backed by any real evidence? Moments later, she had sent me a link from a The Streetwise News, a newspaper published with the express purpose of helping/promoting the needs of homeless people....sorry, people suffering from homelessness.

In the article, 51% of males felt threatened by housed people, while 57% of females felt threatened by housed people. This is what passes for journalism these days. 


It didn't take long for this young lady to then read me the Riot Act about being some cold-hearted, selfish Boomer who doesn't understand homelessness or the difficulties of the working poor. She then went on to boast about her superior first hand experience as a former homeless person who struggled and continues to struggle with making the week's paycheck outlast an empty pantry.

None of her ignorant projections about me are true. 

I didn't bother to tell her the many times in my life that I had the work two menial low paying jobs just to put another plate of poorly made mac & cheese in front of my face. Or the time I had experienced my own homelessness on my first sojourn to Los Angeles and resorted to sleeping on the roof of a building until I could find and afford housing. Nor did I explain my first hand understanding of dealing with the state of New Jersey to get my uncle into a state-assisted living for mentally handicapped. 

By the time she started slinging unmerited Boomer invectives my way I knew the argument was over. 

I don't know what the solution is. 

Maybe with more people working from home, those vacant office buildings can be converted into housing. Maybe we can build low cost homes the way the Chinese put up hospitals in 10 days. Maybe the billionaires of this country who are allegedly our best and brightest, can put their heads together and come up with a solution.

All I know is, I'm glad to have the bike path back.

At least for now.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Someting is rotten in upstate NY

There isn't much I consider Must-See-TV. 

Does that phrase date me or what? 

But The Vow, the docu-series on HBO detailing the lurid and often comical behaviors/platitudes/volleyball tips of the NXIVM cult, led by Keith Raniere, is definitely phrase worthy.

We are now in the thick of Season Two, wherein we are seeing the hands of justice slowly forming an iron fist and about to spike a thorny volleyball in the face of the one time, diminutive, greasy-haired Svengali. I'll try not to give away too many spoilers for uninitiated, but Season 1 is a must see primer.

Raniere, a skilled salesman, who toiled for many years in various multi-level marketing schemes, found himself in the company of many wealthy Jewish women from New York and upstate NY. Mishbuchah, if you will. (In fact, during some post-viewing online research I discovered this clownish cult leader actually went to my high school and was only two years behind me!) 

He also found himself in the vicinity of a whiteboard and some magic markers and began spitting psycho-babble verse. What Eminem was to the gritty streets of Michigan, Keith Raniere was to Manhattan socialites and well-to-do suburban dwellers seeking "self improvement wisdom".

"Fear and resentment are cousins. They live near each other. And are co-dependent. To eliminate one one must sever the relationship with the other. Who wants to be the libero?"

Did I mention Raniere's demented obsession with volleyball?

The dozen of his disciples soon became dozens. Then hundreds. And those hundreds included small time Hollywood actresses and wealthy relatives from the Bronfman Empire, whom made money the old fashioned way -- they sold liquid spirits and got people soused.

At one point, the cult, headquartered near Albany, NY, had franchised outlets around the world. I've been to Albany and can't understand why anyone or anything would be headquartered there. Albany makes Syracuse look like the Amalfi Coast. 

It ain't.

Perhaps the most jaw-dropping aspect of this pre-Pete Davidson character was his extraordinary ability to bed down women, who not only fell under his "charm" but would do so in droves. I never understood women before watching this series. I understand them even less now. I'm as clueless as a Red Hat in a library.

If I haven't convinced you to to tune, stream...the hijinx of a narcissistic douchebiscuit corralling willing sheep into an abyss of self destruction (sound familiar?), consider the picture above. 

It is the result of human branding, that's right. He convinced his harem to sear their flesh with his own less-than-cryptic brand via a custom made iron rod heated to more than 1000 degrees.

I say less-than-cryptic because if you flip the picture 90 degrees to the left, you are left with Keith's initials.

Point. Set. Match.

I hope this fancy man gets his cumuppance in the Big House -- misspelling intentional.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

testy, testy 1...2...

Had an interesting chat with my boss yesterday? And the topic of retirement came up. Not because he's trying to push me out or anything. I wasn't handed a Musk-like memo that said, "You either go hardcore or you can go home."

He was just wondering.

To be honest, I'm wondering too. If I retired I'd have a great deal more time to spend with my daughters. More time with friends. More time to glean wisdom from Ms. Muse. And much, much more time to spend with myself. 

That's the dealbreaker. I would drive me crazy.

That's when Peter, let's call him Peter because that the name on his driver's license, had a suggestion. 

"I understand the need to always be making something. That's what drives the creative psyche. So why not use the platform (R17) you've built over 13 years and accumulated 8 possibly 9 regular readers, and branch out to do a podcast?" 

That was a head scratcher, particularly since I had just dragged a crusty blade across my scalp and was feeling a tad itchy. Note to self: re-up order of Dollar Shave Club (my alma mater) 4 and 6 blade packages.

Truth is, I've given the podcast thing some thought in the past. And have appeared on several podcasts, including one with Rob Schwartz (my former TV writing partner), with Barry Fiske ( former colleague and fellow Orangeman), and with Pete Turner, a seasoned Afghan Veteran who spent 7 years in combat if I'm not mistaken.

Pete even has a side business where he sets novice podcasters up with the equipment and the tips and tricks of the trade. 

How hard can it be? You set the microphone up and talk into the bulbous end. Talk or rant. Or spew. Or rail. Or riff. Or unload. Or vent. Or string some words together that somehow manifest Howard Beale from Network fame..."I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!!!"

Hell, if the ad industry's leading xenophobe and DEI poo-poo'er can do it so can I.

What say you Roundseventeen readers? (just a little market research before I go any further)

Also, in terms of potential names, do any of these make you all tingly?


Curmudgeon's Corner

The Hurl

Audio Lava

CrankyShorts (I'd go with Cranky Pants, but I rarely wear Pants anymore)

Wednesday, November 16, 2022



It's been said that if you have your health you have everything. And in that respect I truly am a blessed man.

I don't mean to tempt the fates, but I am exceptionally healthy. I've never been seriously ill. Never had a doctor say something like, "Uh-oh." Never even spent a night in a hospital bed. 

I did spend two miserable nights at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica. But that was for the births of my two equally-healthy daughters. That was not fun.  As I had to sleep on a recliner chair while Deb was in labor. She got an epidural. I had a gummy edible and some leftover soup crackers.

On top of all that I may be the last man in America to have NOT gotten Covid. My health is so exceptional I was able to remain 44 years of age for a good 20 years.

But now I am 64. 

And facing the greatest health challenge of my life: signing up for Medicare. My phone has become Spam Central, ringing off the hook (sorry for the old man reference) with pitches from Medicare Consultants.

Why on earth does healthcare coverage necessitate outside paid consultants?

They not only reach me by phone, they clog my mailbox with letters, flyers, and pitches that make me yearn for the pleasant dulcet tones of local political ads. 

The deadline for me to make my life-altering Medicare choices is drawing near. And though many kindhearted readers of this blog have showered me with compliments for being whip smart and impressively knowledgable -- OK, maybe I've gilded the lily -- the truth is when it comes to this shit my brain is like a garbage breakfast scramble, "tuna fish, pineapple and Ready Whip, sure why not?"

I suspect Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert or Kari Lake could make more sense of Medicare than I could.

The other truth is, I was always more than willing to let Deb handle this part of our lives. I miss her patience, intellect and attention to detail. Hard to believe that at one point in the past 65 years, I could solve differential equations and calculate the volume of a 3D rhomboid bisected by a 2D parallelogram. 

But HSA, family deductibles, out of pocket costs, PPOs and HMOs, are as foreign to me as rational logic is to the MyPillowGuy™.

Why does it have to be like that?

I suppose for the same reason why we still measure in inches and miles, while the entirety of the industrial world is on the standardized and simpler metric system. 

'Murica, fuck yeah!

On that note, I will retell the story of how I was stricken with a sudden bout of bronchitis while traveling in London about a decade ago. I know earlier I said I was exceptionally healthy, but 11 hours on a British Airways flight, seated next to a man wearing cheap cologne, and who had just smoked a carton of Apple Reds, left me severely depleted of oxygen.

We bolted over the St. Vincent's Hospital and a team of three doctors including a fancy schmancy pulmonologist rushed to my attention. I was given a temporary bed, hooked up to an oxygen machine and left the hospital 4 hours later. All for the cost of $50. The rest was covered by the good liberty-loving folks of the Kingdom, who had the good sense to institute the single payer NHS (National Health Service) in 1948.

Last time I looked, the United States, Syria and Somalia were the only countries on the planet without universal access to medical attention. Good company, huh?

If affordable, efficient universal healthcare is what qualifies as Communism in the pea brains of our homegrown Red Hats, then put me down for a few heaping helpings of that sweet, sweet Bolshevism.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

The inbRED Wave

This is the Blue Damselfish, sometimes referred to as the Blue Dam. Actually, I might be the only one to refer to it that way, but only because my Google search for a Blue Dam came up empty.

Why would I want to talk about a Blue Dam? Well, it was on full display at last week's trepidatious election. And the Blue Dam prevented this country from going down the toilet due to a fictional Red Wave.

I was sure the Red Wave, or even the Red Tsunami, was going to happen, mostly because the media and many pollsters told us it was going to happen. Moreover, the precedent had been set, many times over, for the opposing party to sweep into Congress in the two years following a victory by their opposition. 

It happened to Clinton.

It happened to Bush.

It happened to Obama.

And it happened to Captain Fuckknuckle.

At this writing, the House and Senate majorities are still up for grabs (UPDATE: The Senate is Blue). But the gubernatorial candidates picked by our failed traitorous, Insurrection-inciting past POTUS, went down to defeat. In many ways this was more important than Congress, because it is the governors who sign the state certifications of presidential electoral votes. 

Besides, what has Congress ever done, except give themselves pay raises, trade on insider information and endlessly fund raise for political parties (both D & R) that are only in it to enrich themselves.

Nevertheless, by Wednesday morning, we -- meaning those capable of critical thinking -- were quite relieved. In other words, it wasn't the Libs that got owned, it was misguided the Red Hats who, for reasons unknown, still follow in the shit-on-the heels footsteps of an America-hating, narcissist with the intellectual firepower of a headless turkey. 

More importantly, and I've got my fingers crossed on this, we are finally starting to see the collapse of rubber stamp party support of the orange haired buffoon.

With the ascent of hard-hearted Ron DeSanctimonious, Republican strategists and GOP politicians are abandoning ship and boarding their political lifeboats. 

Think about that.

It wasn't his shameful embrace of Putin and the hopes of building a Trump Tower in Moscow that gave them pause.

It wasn't him paying $130,000 to a porn star to sit on his mushroom dick, while his wife was nursing his newborn, that gave them pause.

It wasn't him adding $7.8 trillion to our national debt, with NOTHING, to show for it, that gave them pause.

It wasn't him ignoring COVID and leaning into a microphone and declaring, "I take no responsibility," that gave them pause.

It wasn't him blackmailing Ukraine to initiate a false investigation on Hunter Biden that gave them pause.

It wasn't refusing to accept the 2020 election results and claim (without a shred of evidence) that it was stolen, that gave them pause.

It wasn't his failure to conduct the peaceful transfer of power that gave them pause.

It wasn't his incitement of a violent Insurrection that gave them pause.

It wasn't his relentless attacks on the pillars of American democracy and the subsequent erosion of our electoral system that gave them pause.

It wasn't even the discovery of Top Secret Classified documents at his shabby, mold-infested country club garage that gave them pause.

It was his failure to help Republicans grab even more power so they would have America in their greedy, grubby, craven hands that finally...finally gave them pause.

Fuck the GOP!!

Monday, November 14, 2022

Armoire Robbery

Yours truly came within a zebra's hair of being swindled out of $500 last week.

I don't know which would hurt more, the loss of the money (which is getting scarcer these days) or the permanent damage to my inflated ego. 

Many of you will recall I wrote an anti-scamming book years ago -- Tuesday With Mantu, My Adventures with a Nigerian Con Artist, available on Amazon and various websites wherever crappy self published books are sold.

Here's how it all went down.

As of late I have been actively decluttering the house. It's a big house for one person. And we always made the mistake of buying too much furniture. Lucy, my whiny dog, has made a bed out of everything that has a cushion on it.  And everything else collects dust and hair, the way a Shitgibbon Bund Rally collects high school dropouts who are now self-proclaimed PhDs in Political Science.

My sister in law was going to take the armoire pictured above, but the logistics of getting it from my place in Culver City to hers in Lakewood seemed daunting. So I turned to the interwebs and put up a listing on FaceBook's Marketplace. I added some brief, clever copy in the vein of Hemingway, "For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Used." 

And within minutes my computer started dinging.Not surprising because I am, allegedly, a professional at this.

The first inquiry, actually, the second too, came from a woman who was leery about going to a stranger's house to see his armoire. Both wanted to make sure I was real and put me through a gauntlet of verification thigamajigs. As the father of two grown daughters I understood completely and would hope my girls would be equally cautious.

They went silent, and then I heard from Robert Tajawoski. 

Robert asked how old the armoire was. The condition. The size. All the kind of questions one would expect from a careful buyer of used armoires. After a little back and forth he decided he wanted it. And said he was out of town but that the guys who work for him would come buy tomorrow to pick up the behemoth. Sight unseen.

Damn I was good at this, I mistakenly thought.

To secure the Armoire he offered to pay me $500 (full asking price) via Zelle. I'm more of a Venmo guy but who was I to argue about a quick sale and wired money placed in my bank account? Money which could immediately be turned into a two inch thick Tomahawk steak or expensive, sushi grade Ahi Tuna.

Then I got an email...

Like I said I'm not that familiar with Zelle and Robert was kind enough to "help" me navigate the process. 

I didn't have a Zelle Business account (as requested by the email) and I told Robert he'd need to send another $500. He acted a little perturbed  (all part of the game) and asked if he could trust me to refund the money after I got my initial 500.

I agreed. And moments later, I received another email from "Zelle."

He'd given me $1000. The selling price was $500. So I owed Robert $500. 

Perfect I thought.

Then my spidey sense kicked in. I checked my Wells Fargo account and there were not two $500 deposits made. Nor were they pending. I told Robert, who was growing impatient, I was having difficulty figuring out how to "refund" his money and called Zelle. There, I learned there was no such thing as a Zelle Business Account.

Having made myself familiar with many types of scams, I recalled a scene from Mamet's House of Games (an excellent primer in con artistry), in which Joe Mantegna silkily tricks Lindsey Crouse to hand him more money than they had initially agreed to exchange. 

Realizing what was transpiring, I told Robert, whose name on his Zelle account was Josh Stanley, to politely go fuck himself. I also told Robert I was forwarding all our chats and correspondence to my cousin Ira Silverbergstein who works in the FBI's Internet Fraud Division, Interpersonal Banking Unit. Seemed plausible and appropriately threatening. 

Besides, I thought, if he can make shit up, so can I.

I didn't hear from Robert again.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

The Brotherhood of Chikuma

I'm told I'm a very lucky guy. In that I have good health. I have financial stability (as much as one can possibly have in these turbulent times.) I raised two wonderful daughters. And I had a loving marriage that lasted 29 years --26 of them were happy, as the old Henny Youngman joke goes.

I don't do it enough, but I need to soak in the bath of gratitude once in a while.

Today is one of those days, as evidenced by the screengrab of last week's Zoom call with my colleagues/friends from Team One.

When did I work at Team One, the agency that literally built the Lexus brand, you may ask? 

Way back in the halcyon days of 1993. We, I'm referring to the Creative Department, came after the heyday demonstration ads created by Court Crandall, Kirk Souder, Mike Mazza, Steve Silver and more. All legends in their own right. 

You young ad kids would do well to study their work. Elegant. Simple. And dependent upon the intelligence and discernment of the viewer/reader. 

In their wake, we came in and had what they never had, a CMO from Japan who barely spoke English. A toddler's understanding of marketing. And a vocal belligerence that rivaled the Captain in Bridge over the River Kwai. 

It was Advertising Hell.

And for that experience, I am grateful. 

Because in that misery was forged a lasting friendship that has sustained itself for close to 30 years. Like last week's Zoom call, we have been getting together, sharing stories, busting chops and keeping up with each other's lives for as long as I can remember. 

We have that rarest of bonds -- familiarity. And often pick up where we left off, whether it's on a call or the fortunate, though rare, occasion when we hoist beers and bourbon in person. As a result, we often break down into fits of laughter that have us reaching for the Ben Gay the following day.

Last week's gathering was smaller than usual. For reasons unknown, we missed the presence of John Hage, Robert Prins, Jeff Spiegel and the inimitable Stan Toyama, whose spot-on impression of our curt marketing overlord never fails to trigger painful flashbacks and riotous chuckles.

Perhaps they will join us next time. And Matty can re-enact his on-the-fly riffing about the Focus Group of one schizophrenic guy.

"I hated that commercial, why is he wearing a blue shirt?" he said.

"Well, I loved it," he replied.

"I don't like the drawings in the cartoon," he also replied.

Adding, "Why is it a cartoon?"

And finally, "Are there any more M&M's."

Maybe, I'm not doing it justice. Maybe you had to be there. Hopefully next time everyone will be. 

Thanks gents, I love you all.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Butcher Dox

Don't you hate it when a friend or family member loses a ton of weight and then can't stop talking, actually humblebragging, about their new slimmer self? 

The time they had previously opened their mouths for Ho-Hos, Ding Dong's and Mallow Cups is now being used to drone on about protein optimization, semi-keto, and inedible vegan substitute cheese. 

Not to mention their altered eating and exercising routine, including endless monologues about intermittent fasting, resistance training and the occasional finger fishing.

Today, with the exception of finger fishing, I am that friend. 

Sort of.

Since Deb's passing I have committed myself to weight loss and health gain. I'm down about 40 lbs. and holding steady in the 180's. I weigh less now than when I graduated high school. And physically, I'm stronger now than when I was 44. 

And as many of you know, I was 44 years old for a good long time.

Several factors were, and are, involved. Including my Apple Watch, which effortlessly holds me accountable every day. My membership on Strava, an athlete's log of activities. The almost complete elimination of refined sugars. And finally, my reliance of boxed meat/seafood delivery services.

A month ago I decided to sample the goods from Butcher Box. I'm always hunting for the best quality and value in these services and thought because of their glossy digital advertising -- I guess this shit does work -- I'd give them a shot.

Now I wish I hadn't. 

That's right, I'm turning a corner. "Who wants to hear Siegel blather and bloviate about his slimmer, trimmer body?" 

First of all, the Butcher Box food sucks. 

The salmon steaks were thin, dry and had a certain plastic flavor not unlike the wrapping they came in. The frozen salmon burgers were even worse. Indescribable discs of chopped salmon and assorted other fishes (I suspect) that even my scrap-happy dog would not go near. And the complimentary Lobster Knuckles, whatever the fuck that means, were as Ms. Muse put it, quite knuckly.

Secondly, and more importantly, their purchase operations are deceptive. 

By that I mean, my intention was only to buy one box, for sampling purposes. Little did I know it was subscription-only. Meaning, the good folks at BB would continue to pawn off and deliver their sub-par patties, filets and knuckles to my doorstep until I went to the trouble of canceling, which as any online shopper knows is never that easy.

When I received an email telling me my 2nd box of Super Premium Grass Fed Organically Harvested Meat and Fish was on the way, I dropped my 230 lbs. bench press bar (had to work that in) and made a dash for the phone.

Too late, I was told.

Moreover, I was also informed that a refund for this food, which will now sit in my freezer in case of an 9.3 earthquake or a Putin-signed missile dropped on California, was not possible.

So now I'm out about 150 bucks that was stolen from me by the good folks at Butcher Box. 

Do you think it's possible for me to exact $150 worth of pain upon these meat bleeders?

Can I turn my years of copywriting experience in the other direction and unsell a product?

How many potential new customers can I dissuade from Butcher Box and send to one of their many fine competitors?

I don't know but in the vernacular of the day, Butcher Box has fucked around and now they're going to find out.


Should you be inclined to help me in my continuing fight against these food pilferers, feel free to visit the Butcher Box Facebook page and leave a comment, like:

1. "I was going to sign up for your meat and fish delivery service but then I heard some dude named Rich Siegel say your sirloin was purloin off a camel carcass. Hard Pass."

2. "How are your Lobster Knuckles? One of your customers, a guy named Rich Siegel, said there were tough and knuckly."

3. "Rich Siegel says you put sawdust and rat parts in your Salmon Burgers. I didn't know salmon ate rats. How do they catch them?" 

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Blessing #27 -- Windex Pete


As noted earlier, I'm compiling these memories of Deb for my daughter's sake. 

So that they will have a lasting document of her beauty, warmth and limitless kind spirit. Many of these memories/blessings came before the girls were born. Or happened in their absence.

This was neither. 

We were all in New Orleans visiting potential colleges. 

I loved the potential college trips. There's something inviting and promising about universities. Perhaps it's all the young people with their lives in front of them. Perhaps it's the college bookstores with their well-rounded selection of logo-adorned fleece wear -- available in Dad XXL. Or maybe it's my own flashbacks to a time when I was free from the heavy responsibilities and skidmarks of life.

On this trip, which started with a wing-ripping turbulent pass through a violent Gulf of Mexico storm, we were checking out Tulane as well as the nearby Loyola School. After a long day of campus cruising and a visit to the Treme District, which was every bit as gritty and funky as the HBO must-see show, the girls wanted some alone time. 

Truth be told, so did Deb and I. 

In a rare display of unthriftiness, I had secured a separate room for my daughters. They were old enough and independent minded enough to be set free. Which allowed Deb and I to visit the hotel bar and become acquainted with NOLA's very own Sazerac -- a rye based cocktail that necessitates no ice or any manner of watering down.

For the unfamiliar, it is quite delicious as well as potent. 

I did not know it at the time, but one Sazerac demands another. And possibly another. By the time we walked out of the hotel, and it might have been on  Deb's birthday, January 6th (Fuck you Insurrectionists for tainting that date), we were both smiling from ear to jazz-filled ear.

We started walking around the French Quarter, remarking how dingy, dirty and unappealing Bourbon Street had become. We made our way to the fringes where we found Lafitte's, the oldest and darkest bar in all of Louisiana. There, we came across Windex Pete (pictured above), a staple in the Treme.

Pete, who also appeared to have an excess of Sazeracs, cornered Deb and I, clearly looking to hustle us for  some greenbacks. Feeling kindly and generous during my heyday freelancing days, I obliged. I even filmed the encounter, which you can see here...

Now you know why my burgeoning career as a cinematographer went nowhere. If you listen closely you can hear Deb giggling at the beginning of the video. 

(PAUSE, to dry my eyes.)

And if you make your way to the end, you can hear yours truly cackling with delight. I gave Windex Pete a $20 for the personal performance. When I asked him where we could go to see good live jazz -- not the touristy crap -- WP offered to take us to the other side of the city if I paid for the cab and bought him a drink. Or two.

After much back and forth and Deb tugging on my jacket, we declined. In hindsight I wish we had gone.

Nevertheless, and if I may paraphrase Bukowski, "we were with the gods, the night flamed with fire, and we rode life straight to perfect laughter."  

A New Orleans memory/blessing I will never forget.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Strangest Things

There are few things in life that be described as singular and beyond compare. 

Having a baby comes to mind. 

Finishing a marathon is another.

Driving a 600 horsepower NASCAR around the Fontana race track certainly qualifies.

And then there's a visit to Culver City's own Museum of Jurassic Technology. Which technically isn't in Culver City, but in 2022 the truth can be stretched. And that will be the only hint I will give regarding the nature of the unique displays you will see, should you decide to part with $12.

Last week I escorted Ms. Muse through the dimly lit and narrow hallways of this ancient building on Venice Blvd. And didn't have to wait too long before her jaw hit the floor. The Duck's Breath is one of the more milder among the plethora of oddities. (I like the word plethora, but was prohibited from using it in ad because, "...people won't understand what it means.")

SPOILER ALERT: There is an underlying theme that runs throughout the "museum", which is nothing more than a converted home/apartment building. And while I do not dare reveal the theme, I will provide previews of our favorite exhibitions:

1. Mouse Pie  -- Animals, rodents and insects, play a large part here. And none more telling than the dead mouse pie. Literally, an apple pie with two long-deceased white mice laying on top of the eternally soggy crust. This particular piece has been a staple of the "museum" since my first visit back in the late 80's. The mouse pie was thought to have magical curative powers and could save the life of an infirm toddler. Babies and small children are another sub-theme throughout. 

2. Old Wives Tales -- In the back room, which isn't fair since once you're inside they all seem like back rooms, you'll find a monstrously large, stuffed jackrabbit encased in glass. In the 1700/1800's, rabbits played a big part in pioneer lore. I forgot all the details, but in order to ward off evil spirits a mother nursing a child would shout "Rabbits, Rabbits, Rabbits." Perhaps this was the inspiration for Tim Burton's BeetleJuice. 

Similarly, if a prairie mom did not like the way her man split the wood or brought home foul meat, thereby  igniting her wrath, she'd look him straight in the eye and declare, "Rabbits to you, good sir, Rabbits to you."

3. Trailer Parkopoluzza --An entire room dedicated to the study of signature Americana. Here, you will learn and see -- in magnificent tiny model diarammas and earnestly written plaque copy --the origin of the Trailer Park. Seminal innovations in Trailer Park history. And of course, the fatal disasters (mostly wind related) that have plagued Trailer Park residents -- America's original Nomads.

As a fan of kitsch, I can safely say it is breathtaking in scope and overwhelming in its commitment to the "museum's" through-line, which I will leave you to discover.

Get thee to the Museum of Jurassic Technology (give that name a think) and don't forget to go upstairs to the aviary/tea room. We didn't sample the tea or cookies, as our appetites had been dampened upon the viewing the dead mouse pie as well as the plethora of dirty incontinent birds flying around the aviary.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

All politics are local

 I have a gripe.

OK, let's be completely frank, I have an endless supply of gripes. Hence, the longevity of this overrated blog. But today's is kind of timely, particularly with an election coming up.

Every four years or every two years or every two minutes (it seems) we are bombarded with a slew of political candidates who promise us the world only to deliver more emails requesting donations. The purpose of that money is to secure their newfound position so that they can reap the rewards for years to come.

When taxpayer money is finally used to address the issues of the day, it always seem to be directed in two directions and never in one.

Wealthy people get tax cuts, loopholes, subsidies and even PPP loans that are used to buy Italian shoes, imported supercars, private jets and even 2nd and 3rd yachts.

Poor people, though more deserving, also get a host of taxpayer bennies: EBT cards, social services, school lunches, assisted housing, etc. I'll bite my tongue here because I realize it's not fashionable to bemoan help to those less fortunate. And I'm not.

I'm simply asking, "why can't some taxpayer revenue be thrown the way of the middle class?"

More specifically, why can't the state or the county repave the Ballona Creek Bike Path (pictured above)?

On a recent weekend ride, I was asked how many miles I have logged on this once-scenic route, before every underpass began sprouting makeshift housing for the unhoused, the homeless or those suffering homelessness (that should cover all the necessary semantic gymnastics.)

And so I did a little math in my head. I've been riding this 5.3 mile stretch of path that takes me from the belly of Culver City to the wide open Pacific in Playa Del Rey for 30 years.

Some weeks I would cover it about 6 times a week (30 miles)

Some weeks I would do none (0 miles)

On a conservative guess, let's say it's about 10 miles a week.

10 Miles a week X 52 weeks a year (I'm quite OCD when it comes to exercise) = 520 miles/year

Let's round that off to 500 miles a year X 30 years = 15,000 miles.

Let's round that down even further to account for being busy at work, taking care of kids, the daily rigmarole of life, and the occasional bouts of inertia and laziness, to 10,000 miles.

I've logged 10,000 miles on this bike path and it has been repaved and smoothed out ZERO times.

And I'm here to testify, it is a fucking mess. Thanks to the tectonic shifting, asphalt erosion, wear and tear, the path has more minefields than the 38th Parallel. And I have the bent rims, flat tires and broken fingernails to prove it. 

Also, changing flat tires sucks!

What I'm trying to say -- now that I've worked myself up into a lather -- is Hey Mr. or Ms. Ambitious Politician, you want my vote? Spend a little of my hard-earned money on me. Tell me you'll fix the fucking bike path.

And then, and this is just a thought, Do It!

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

To Kill An Empty Blog post page


At the risk of sounding like an old grumpypants who pines for the past, I'll say it again, "they don't make movies like they used to anymore."

I know this is a common trope used by men, and women, of my age. But it's true. Things were better before. 

Gardeners used rakes instead of noisy leaf blowers. 

Cars had batteries under the hood and not hidden like Anne Frank under the spare tire. 

And movies (and plays) had characters not cartoon heroes in spandex, throwing fireballs and trashcan lids at equally ridiculous villains.

I bring all this up because we went to the Pantages Theater to sink our teeth into Aaron Sorkin's version of To Kill A Mockingbird. Ms. Muse remembered the original black and white film starring the inimitable Gregory Peck. My memory, like my ball and sockets joints, was not so on point. 

In fact, in my hazy, sometimes boozy mind, I thought Boo Radley was played by the guy who starred as Lurch on the Adams Family. It wasn't. It was a very young and imposing Robert Duvall, still one of my favorite and underrated actors.

The show? Perhaps a little long in the tooth but captivating nonetheless. Maybe because in Sorkin's updated theatrical version, the script was modified to reflect some of the prickly prejudicial and political situations of today.

In one particularly reflective monologue, we are told how the Alabama State officials voted 66-3 to reject a common sense law that would require juries of a diverse nature. A thinly-veiled reference to our current Upper Chamber who obediently and blindly march behind an ignorant white supremacist. 

As well as a shot across the bow to those unnamed ad fools who still don't see the value and necessity of DEI.

In another moving scene we see the rape victim's father accuse Atticus Finch of bearing some "Hebraic Seasonings." A phrase that will stay with me for a while. Though in retrospect seemed a little high falutin' and deliciously subtle coming out of the mouth of a lowlife Alabama drunkard would-be Red Hat.

All in all, the show is worth seeing. 

Cautionary tale, if you go to a Saturday showing be aware that they also have an afternoon matinee. So double check your purchase, and the correct time, otherwise you'll be denied entrance for the evening show and forced to accept tickets in the nosebleed section, next to the guy in charge of the long high overhead spotlight while sucking on a can of oxygen.

With apologies to Siskel & Ebert, I give To Kill a Mockingbird Two Aquiline Noses Up.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

If Apple Ruled the World

Last week I received an email from Apple. Mind you, I'm not prone to answering, much less looking, at the ton of spammy email that arrives in my box without fail, every....damn...morning. 

From politicians and their lame reverse psychology tricks ("It looks like we've already lost") to offers from Butcher Box (good packaging, not so good quality). And like you, and millions of other Americans, I click, command shift, scroll, and toss that annoying shit right in the trash can. 

I don't care how catchy their subject lines may or may not (mostly not) be.

But, I was drawn to this one because it was from Apple and it just so happens my oldest daughter Rachel works at MAL -- Media Arts Lab, the agency that handles their advertising and sorta, my alma mater. Rachel (in red) is seen here with my equally-beautiful and intelligent, other daughter, Abby.

The email was for the Apple Titanium Credit Card. 

Granted, the last thing I need is another credit card but it had a certain minimalist appeal. And they were offering Cash Back on every purchase. I was never a credit card rewards guy until I discovered I had thousands of dollars worth of rewards on my Chase Card not long ago. 

So I did the uniquely American thing and signed up. 

When the card arrived several days later it had that signature Apple touch of innovation and simplicity.

To activate the card, all I had to do was place my iPhone on the box. And like magic it worked. Moreover, it also put the card directly into my iPhone wallet. It was all so seamless. And intuitive. 

Ports and charger chords notwithstanding, the good people at Apple have heeded Steve Jobs' advice: "Let's make things easier for the consumer. Not harder."

If only other companies followed suit.

Why, for instance, do we still have Phone Trees? The man or woman who invented these aberrations should be forced to sit in a jail cell and listen to this mind-impaling babble before every meal for the rest of his or her miserable life.

Why, after enduring phone trees, are we then connected to a service representative who demands the same personal information we punched in 27 minutes and 33 seconds prior to a live human?

And why, please someone explain this, are all live representatives in Pakistan, India or Kashmir? I have nothing against them, nothing. In fact my chosen Siri voice is Indian.

It's charming when Siri is reading out driving directions to me or telling me what the word 'obstreperous' means. But when I am fuming about some mishap/mistake/or downright screwing by an American company, I want to vent my frustration in full-throated American English vernacular. And not have to interject that with...

"Excuse me"

"Pardon me"

"Can you repeat that?" 

Additionally, in light of last week's purchase of Twitter by Chief Douchebag, Elon Musk, I like to think soft-spoken billionaire Tim Cook (or Tim Apple, as ex Precedent Shitgibbon liked to call him) would do a much better job as Head of the New World Order.