Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Be careful of what you wish for.

These words spring to mind, I should say they sprung to mind while hiking around the neighborhood and stepping over homeless encampments. My dog Lucy and I have been doing a lot of walking lately as I've been barred from any strenuous exercise pending doctor's approval -- hopefully, tomorrow morning.

In light of all the flipping activity in Georgia and more RICO co-defendants willing to testify that our former president did indeed engage in illegal and criminal activity to STEAL the 2020 election, there is sufficient reason to believe that he will be convicted of a crime. For at least one of the 91 criminal charges hanging over his gravity-defying aquanetted 'hair.' 

It's the accountability I have been longing for since his consequential descent on the golden elevator. And since I started bellowing "I told You So!!!" into the social media bullhorn, for oh so long.

But now I have to ask, "is accountability what we want?"  

Given what we know of him, his willingness to gin up his followers and their unholy, unrestrained worship of his ignorance, his incompetence and his scorched Earth narcissism, one wonders whether his accountability will signal the end of American democracy?  

With the Twitter arrow back in his quiver (Fuck you, Elon Musk), he will have free reign to fire up the tiny keys on his flip-phone and scream into the ears of 74 million Red Hats, "They didn't convict me, they convicted you."

What happens next could make the Insurrection of January 6th 2021 look like a schoolyard fight over a lunch money dispute. 

It's hard to believe that any president could make former president Nixon look like a mensch, but at least Tricky Dick had the wherewithal to spare us the trauma of a trial and incumbent stress it would put on the body politic. 

This orange pornstar-fucking, tax-cheating, fast-food gobbling, charity-robbing, classified-document hoarding pig will do nothing of the kind. Once the fire is lit and his fascist followers take to the streets, he will will revel in it. He will gorge on their fealty. And gleefully turn American verse American.

It will get unimaginably ugly.

Even if we were to somehow survive all that, there is little reason to believe The Rule of Law will.


Perhaps a front page obituary is a better wish.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Missed information

Israel and Gaza have been in the news lately. It is not easy to look at. Or listen to. Particularly with anti-Israel and antisemitic fever running frightfully high. And with college campuses (campi?) being a focal point for much of the rhetoric, I decided it'd be a good idea to sit down with one of the students for a one-on-one chat about the current situation. 

But, because I have no desire to waste a few good hours of my semi-busy day, nor run the risk of clocking one of these halfwits, I decided to manufacture the interview out of thin air. Because so much of what I hear these days is. And because it's my blog and I can do what I want with it. Here then is my chat with fictional 21 year old Chad Wokington, from Scottsdale, AZ.

RS: Chad, thank you for sitting down with me today. You can take off your keffiyeh scarf, I'm not taking any pictures. 

CW: Thanks man. I got this from my girlfriend Ai'sha. She was from Iran. Pretty cool, huh.

RS: Was from Iran? 

CW: She still is. But we had to break up when her parents found out I have two dads. But we're still friends. Sort of.

RS: Why are you here today? 

CW: To protest the continuing Israeli oppression. And the genocide, man. Innocent Palestinians are dying. Women. And innocent little children. It's genocide.

RS: Agreed, women and innocent children should never be killed. Never. What about Hamas, the elected state government of Gazans? Maybe they shouldn't be hiding in civilian residential areas and using Palestinians as human shields? 

CW: Maybe the Israelis shouldn't have stolen their land. It's blatant colonialism.

RS: Colonialism is when invaders come in and take land that belonged to indigenous people. Like when Europeans took North America. Or the British capturing Southern Asia and then splitting it up, like they did with India and Pakistan. Jews have been indigenous to this land for thousands of years.

CW: Huh?

RS: Where was Jesus born, Chad?

CW: Bethlehem.

RS: Bethlehem, Israel. Good. Did you ever see Jesus Christ Superstar? What do they call Jesus in that musical?

CW: King of the Jews. 

RS: Right. Just like David. And Solomon. Can you name me any great rulers of the Palestinians?

CW: That guy...with the bad beard...Arafat. Kashmir Arafat.

RS: Close. But he came around in the 1960's and 70's. Anyone before that?

CW: Yeah, no.

RS: Did you know the Quran, which was written in the year 610 CE, also refers to the Jews as Israelites?

CW: Yeah, no.

RS: Let's switch gears and talk about more modern history. What do you know about the British Mandate?

CW: uhhhh...

RS: The Peel Commission?

CW: uhhhhhh...

RS: The Balfour Declaration?

CW: Uhhhh...

RS: The Ottomans?

CW: My parents have one in the living room.

RS: This is crazy...

CW: Man, all I know is there has to be two states. One for the Jews and one for the Palestinians. 

RS: Like the UN Partition Plan of 1948...oh, never mind. Your sign says "From the River to the Sea." Where would Israel be under that scenario?

CW: I don't know, but you should check out the shwarma they're serving over by Royce Hall. It's killer.

RS: Thanks, Chad. Thanks for your time.

CW: Later, dude.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Bring on the Dirt Nap

Dear R17 readers, I need help. I need help in the medical arena.

Thankfully it does not involve my recent surgery from two weeks ago. 

Nor the Steri-Strips™ which cover the 11 sutures and are supposed to dissolve with each passing shower. I see no signs of their fading away, despite my 3 showers a day. In fact I'm convinced they have fused themselves to my skin and I will have to purchase new underwear that either hides their hideous appearance or matches their unflattering color. 

As the picture above would indicate, I need help in the healthcare coverage area. Good night nurse, could they make it anymore confusing?

You might be thinking, "How does a grown man, who has circled the sun 65 successful times, not know a thing about healthcare insurance?" 

I may have six decades plus under my belt, but the truth is I have the reading comprehension (and the maturity) of a 14 year old. That's not aided by insurance companies, who willfully mangle the English language and create policies and plans that remain indecipherable to a nuclear physicist. Or someone who understands Shakespeare.

I am neither.

Earlier this year, the fine folks at PayPal said they no longer required my copywriting services.

"We've had enough of your wordplay, your wisecracking, your 'when I was at Chiat/Day we did it this way.' Please pack up your virtual equipment and turn in your front entrance badge."

As I was being shown the equally-virtual front door, they unexpectedly handed me a generous severance package. Perhaps I had a valid ageism lawsuit waiting to be initiated, but frankly I'm as bad reading legal documents as I am with insurance claims and just pocketed their going away gifts. Which included healthcare coverage until 12/31/23 -- a date that is quickly approaching.

Not wanting to fall into any bureaucratic crevices, I also thought it'd be wise to sign up for Medicare. I signed up for parts A & B. It was painless and straightforward. 

Or so I thought.

Because now, before this year ends, I'm told I also need parts C & D!!! 


C covers eyes, ears and calve muscles. 

D covers throat, nose and any organ that has a bladder.

E, I assume, covers biceps, tongues and toes number 1-7.

You think I jest, just wait until getting out of bed or a leather chair requires a full body fulcrum and an industrial grade hand winch.

This morning, while writing this very piece and searching for an appropriate visual, I discovered there's also an omnibus plan that covers everything and includes hospital visits, doctor visits, drugs, and toes number 1-10.

Sadly, enrollment for that plan is only available on May 19, from 10:00 AM to 10:15 AM. And you need a lottery number to even get in line.

Please advise.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

It's all relative

Every 3-4 months I receive an email from the good folks at 23 and Me. If you've signed up or had the courage to put your genetic material up to the test ("Please don't tell me I come from a line of serial killers or dentists") you have also received one of these.

I've spoken to friends who refused to do one of these DNA tests for fear of getting a surprise visit in the middle of the night. Or during a Game 7 of ANY playoff series.


That was a possibility, but I never entertained that thought. Mostly, despite my misspent youth and sometimes reckless abandon, I was very careful in this arena. And we'll leave it at that.

Besides, despite the immense Siegel fortune, including "huge tracts of land", I'm not sure anyone would willingly admit to being part and parcel of my dysfunctional family. Though, as my brother often reminds me, "every family is dysfunctional."

However, and this may come as a surprise to you, I have discovered that a few people in the ad biz and I are distantly related. For discretionary purposes I won't name names, but when I contacted these 3rd and 4th far removed cousins, they wisely chose to remain far removed and responded with what could only be described as...


Not so with my 5th cousin David Esrati, who, blessed with a similar outsized concern for justice, is impossibly more political than me. David ran for the US congress and sadly fell short of beating Ohio's finest, Representative Mike Turner, a GOP assclown who other prototypical GOP assclowns aspire to be.

Most the relatives I stumble upon come from my father's working class family who are distinctively Ashkenazi. All hailing from Belarus, Germany, Poland, Lithuania and shitty grim Eastern European shtetls, where Jews did their best to avoid those who would beat them up, mock their beaver hats (come on, they are funny looking) or take their lunch money. 

A few years ago, I had contact with a pretty young blonde woman from London. We actually corresponded for a while. Naturally, I assumed we were connected via my mother's family who still reside in Glasgow. But it turns out, the picture was muddied when she told me she also had roots in Eastern Europe.

Isn't that a kick in the kilt?

Besides my immediate family, and Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits fame) and David Duchovney, there just aren't many of us Single Malt folk spiced generously with Hebraic Seasonings.


Excuse me, there's someone at the door. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Hair on my chinny chin chin

Exciting things are happening in the world of overpriced men's grooming. 

Exciting things.

I was very happy to see that my alma mater -- Dollar Shave Club -- has begun stocking their virtual shelves again with Ball Spray. Oh you read that right, they have a Lower Forty parfume designed specifically for the scrotal region. The claim is that it will leave your fellas tingly and minty. I get the tingly. I'll take their word on mintyness.

I do remember spending inordinate amount of time writing ads, web copy and thousands of jokes about Ball Spray. And even convinced the easily-convinceable folks at Dollar Shave Club to run a  series of "Teste-Monials" from satisfied customers.

Teste-monials. Get it?

I can't tell you how often I'd end the day and thought to myself, "Wow someone is paying me to do this job." Not that it was all brain tingles and mint leaves. Like any job, there were careerists, grammar nazis, and evil cat-petting dominatrices willing to sacrifice the brand in order to beef up their resumes.

I once got in a washtub full of hot water for playfully snapping back at a project manager who took offense to one of my cornball jokes when I slacked, "Oh you're such a Killjoy." Ms. OverSensitivity later ran to HR and proved my unintentional point.

Like I often say on LinkedIn, "I'm so glad to be out."

The other cause for tonsorial excitement is the Manscaped Beard Hedger (pictured above.) 

At the request of Ms. Muse, I have been rocking the Chrome Dome/Bearded look for the last 6 months. My facial hair is almost all white and it no doubt makes me look older than my semi-youthful body would indicate. But I hate shaving and I do like the look. 

That is, until I don't.

While follically challenged on top, the hair that runs across my chin and jowls and ears must be gorging themselves on my high protein diet. Some guys have a 5 o'clock shadow, I get a 5 o'clock cardigan. 

If I don't come in the house by 7 PM, I could have hummingbirds nesting in my neck. 

This necessitated bi-weekly, sometimes weekly, trips to my nearby barber, who was charging me $20 a pop. For a three minute trim. I didn't mind going because it's within walking distance to my house and just a few doors down from my weed store. Plus, he's a few plumbs off bob and tells some great stories. But the math simply didn't work out for me. 

At least not until Uncle Sam starts paying me back all the SS money they took from me in the first place.

Then I happened across this new Beard Hedger (I like that name) with the patented 20 Length Adjustable Blade Wheel™. No more snapping different guide heads to the top of the trimmer. No more guesswork. No more "Oh shit I cut off a whole patch there and now have to shave the beard off and start over."

I love the Manscaped Beard Hedger. And if you haven't guessed, I suspect you will love it too. Here's your official Amazon Affiliate Sponsored code: https://amzn.to/45EEGF5

Tell them Santa sent you.

Legal (like anyone cares): Commissions earned on every sale. Think of it as a GoFundMe, with benefits.

Monday, October 23, 2023

My first President

I'm a Chiat guy. Always will be. Spent close to a dozen years working there. With the exception of VML, I've worked (staff/freelance) for every shop in Southern California and most the major ones in NYC. 

But without the first agency job I held, I'm not sure the others would have followed. 

Such are the trajectories of life. And the initial point for my trajectory happened at Needham, Harper & Steers in Westwood. The president of that agency was Gerry Rubin, who sadly passed away last week.

I did not know Gerry well, but I do know the legacy he built and the standards he set.

Needham, or as two clowns in the mailroom, Jim Jennewein and I called it Needless Hardons & Tears, was the perfect place to start. To this day, I can't believe how fortuitous it was that I got my big fat foot in the door there.  

In retrospect, NH&S (Gerry's place before he and Larry bravely split off and became Rubin Postaer & Associates) was like the Harvard of Southern California ad agencies. They were prim, proper and profitable, winning awards, but more importantly, winning the trust and loyalty of American Honda, their big client. 

It's been said that before you can't break the rules until you know the rules. Under Gerry's steady and gentlemanly leadership, the rules were clear, and they all focused on respect. For the client, for the people and for the work. 

For a boat rocker like myself, that felt constrictive. And formal. And not something I wanted to be part of. Hence the many, many times Jim and I opened and read the confidential memos that swirled around the agency. Then again, I was 24 years old. Stupid. And seemingly destined for a long miserable career as a restaurant line cook.

"It's 11:57, the kitchen's closed. I just cleaned up. I'm not making anyone a Tuna Melt Sandwich."

In short, I changed course (somewhat) and did a lot of growing up (an even more quailfied, somewhat) at NH&S. 

I will never forget the first Xmas party I attended -- 1983 for those who are counting. It was at the Riviera Country Club (ironically where I would show up 10 years later to get married.) Gerry wore a cowboy hat, strummed a guitar and regaled his crew (including me) with some off-key jocularity. 

He also came by my table, thanked me (by name) and handed me an envelope. Inside, there was a hundred dollar bill. For someone making $800 a month, that was quite the windfall. Later, I was to discover, it was among the most generous Christmas bonuses I ever received in all my years in the ad biz.

"An umbrella? Really? A cheap Taiwan-made umbrella?"


As this blog so amply demonstrates, I have a million insufferable memories about being in this industry. This one is etched quite vividly. Because it was an authentic gesture of appreciation, which seems all too rare and undervalued these days. 

Judging from all the online tributes I'm seeing, that appreciation goes both ways.

Thank you Gerry...er, Mr. Rubin.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Too much laughing

As the sign indicates, this is Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park. A quarter mile in circumference, it stands in the middle of what used to be the Culver City Raceway. Here's an overhead look so as you can get your geographic bearings...

My street, is a block to the right of Motor Ave. From the end of my driveway I can see the sign pictured above and still grumble about the poor kerning between 'Dr.' and 'Paul.' 

Thirty years ago, the park was the site of a presidential speech given by Bill Clinton. BTW, if you to check  with the BLS, you'd quickly see that the economy under his Democratic administration recorded far better numbers than the last president routinely, and falsely, boasted about. 

We didn't catch his 1993 speech because we were on a family vacation in Hawaii and only found out about it when we got dropped off by a taxi from LAX. We missed him by 90 minutes.

I've seen quite a few strange things at nearby Carlson Park.

The cooler fall air has brought out the Sunday aspiring circus performers. I kid you not. Contortioniss twisting their bodies into positions that make me queazy. Jugglers, tossing everything from bowling balls to chainsaws. And whip crackers, who seem to take unnatural joy cracking their long leather (?) weapons.

Maybe I shouldn't admit to enjoying the women work their particular brand of art with a whip, but there I said it.

It's a lot more enjoyable than the guy who used don a full kilt and practice his bagpipe in the park. If you ever need to exact some aural revenge on a neighbor -- maybe one with an overly cranky dog who barks non-stop -- I suggest dialing up some heavy duty bagpipe music. 

Last week, while doing one of my post-surgery restrained old man walks, Lucy (my dog, my quiet dog) and I walked by the pavilion where several families pooled their resources and staged a Barbie party for a bunch of girls, ages 5-14. 

It was fun to watch. And exceedingly pleasant. 

Until it wasn't.

A few of the girls had put out a boom box and were line dancing in unison. I marveled, perhaps jealously, at their easy and graceful coordination. Then one of the 5 year girls who was also observing, pointed at me and yelled, "Amelia, Amelia, look, that old man is watching you!"

I moved it along toot suite. 

But lately the park has been joined by a newcomer. You can see her here...

I apologize for the cinematography and the shortness of the clip. Seems I'm not very good at surreptitious filming and would probably not make it as a detective.

She's quite the regular now at the park. As my initial intel suggests. She always wears the same clothes. And appears to be one of two things: a.) an actress rehearsing for a part that demands constant maniacal laughter. b.) a middle aged woman engaged in some type of therapy involving hours upon hours of forced hyena-like laughing.

Welcome to the neighborhood Laughing Lady. 

Can't believe I'm saying this, but with any luck the bagpipe guy will find his way back here. 


Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Panning for commissions

The decking around the pool at my Palms Springs rental property is becoming unglued. It's cracking. It's lifting. It's yielding to the relentless roots of the nearby ficus trees and crumbling like the House GOP.

You might be asking what that has to do with the photo of Gordon Ramsey. And those concerns will be answered.

Fixing concrete decking is an expensive affair. Particularly since the slabs are cantilevered and require some geometric sleight of hand to properly repair them. That means I can't just hire some schmuck with a sledgehammer and a wheelbarrel of dry cement mix to get in there slap something together. 

Fortunately, I have found a pro. 

I also managed to find a dry spell in my erratic stints as America's Oldest and Newest Freelance Copywriter. And as any senior with a vested interest in not ending up in a Dirty Nursing Nursing Home™ will tell you, that means tapping my other stream of revenue as a Certified Amazon Affiliate Marketing Partner.

That brings me to Gordon Ramsey and his HexClad Non-Stick Pan. 

As my eight loyal readers of R17 know, I spent many years in the restaurant industry. I started as a short order cook at the Carrier Circle Denny's to finance my worthless sheepskin at nearby Syracuse University. And I continued, at almost every restaurant on the westside of Los Angeles, to prepare me for a career as copywriter, which in many ways is very similar.

1. Take order

2. Prepare meal (copy)

3. Make revisions

4. Make more revisions

5. Throw picky customer's Western Omelette against the wall

I mention all this because I have some history with allegedly "nonstick" pans.  As you might expect, I have never been happy with any of them. The cheap ones I bought at Bed Bath & Beyond. And the expensive ones, Deb talked me into buying, from Calphalon. 

Each had a similar life journey. They would start as my go-to pan. Then food would start sticking. Then the teflon --the stuff that made it nonstick -- would no longer stick to the metal pan. Then they got relegated to camping gear status. And finally they would go to the Goodwill Store or Salvation Army. 

I was convinced that like the Holy Grail or a sensible Moderate Republican, the notion of a non-stick frying pan simply does not exist in this world. Enter Gordon Ramsey and his patented HexClad line of goods. Here's mine...

I could do a series of posts on Sir Gordon. Perhaps because the screaming and the throbbing neck veins remind me of my father, but I'm not a fan. And I eschew all those "reality" shows. Especially the ones about life in the "back of the house" of any restaurant. 

It just ain't like that. 

Between the inordinate heat, the substance abuse (most cooks) and the unusual proximity to 8 inch chef knives and 5 lbs. cleavers, it's just not wise to be shouting at someone at the top of your lungs as if the making of a proper Hollandaise sauce were a Life and Death proposition.

Nevertheless, the HexClad pans are worth their weight in teflon. Or whatever compound they make these things with. I've had mine for more than a year. Despite the warnings, I've run metal spatulas across its aesthetically pleasing surface. I've used it as a roasting pan. And I've placed it in the dishwasher, though according to Ms. Muse, my dishwasher loading skills could use some work.

The HexClad is as good today as it was the day I bought it. I don't give that ringing endorsement to many products. And I'm not just saying it in hopes that you'll click the following link and deposit some deck-repair money in my affiliate account. 

OK, maybe a little.

Buy the pan, you'll thank me later: https://amzn.to/3rVP0uI

Legal: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Sick to my stomach

I have been sick all week long. And not from the dizzying post surgical, post anethesia effects of my inguinal repair. Nor the stifling limitations it places on my rigorous exercise regimen, one which has become addictive in a therapeutic positive way.

What makes me sick is nothing internal. It's external. So external it would take me 16 hours of traveling -- probably in a middle seat -- to reach the epicenter, which I have no interest in doing.

Of course I'm talking about what has transpired and continues to unravel in the Middle East. Thankfully, we're in football season and I can distract myself from the non-stop horror show that is taking place in Southern Israel and the Gaza Strip -- a spit of land so small it doesn't even merit a proper name.

If it were not for football I'd be gobbling up the news, from the NY Times and WaPo, Twitter (I don't give a shit what Elon Musk wants to call it) and CNN and MSNBC. I suppose I could watch Fox News for a POV that is aligned closer to mine on this particular topic, but I refuse to contribute to that old Aussie money-grubbing lizard in any manner.

Here's a point worth considering. I take no joy, none whatsoever, in watching buildings in Gaza get pummeled by Israeli jets. Nor do I take any satisfaction, in seeing people being extracted from the rubble. Or children, even babies, whose lifeless bodies have gone limp.

 In fact, my body reacts instinctively. My jaw drops. And my hand reflexively reaches to cover up my mouth. 

Interesting how this is such a universal human reaction to deep sorrow and mind twisting pain.

Or so one would think. 

Because days earlier, when footage showed Israeli teenagers being mowed down at a music festival. Or a young woman, who literally shat her pants in fear, being stuffed into an SUV. Or a schoolyard littered with the remains of a  Babi Yar type massacre, these same people (the ones in Gaza) were dancing in the streets and throwing celebratory candy to their children. 

If that weren't sickening enough, last Friday was declared a Global Day of Jihad. 

What does that mean for you? Probably nothing. But for people with Hebraic Seasonings it's different. A dark skinned man in his early twenties came to my house and rang the bell. As he was standing there waiting for me to come to the door he no doubt saw the mezuzah affixed to my doorway.

Before opening the door I placed my sawed off, 2 inch diameter closet pole nearby. It has the weight and feel of a baseball bat. Turns out he wasn't there to attack me or exact any type of Abrahamic revenge.

It was worse. 

He was trying to sell me solar panels.

Perhaps I shouldn't end this post on a point of levity. Not when one considers the world's appalling embrace of moral equivalence, which is, I'm afraid to say, another demonstration of thinly-veiled anti-semitism.

And that makes me very sick.


I invite you to listen to the sanity and wisdom of Sam Harris on this very subject. Take 14 mninutes of your day for the preview: https://www.samharris.org/podcasts/making-sense-episodes/338-the-sin-of-moral-equivalence?utm_source=braze&utm_campaign=2023_w42_newContent_338



Monday, October 16, 2023

Twilight Zone


It's hard to be a Dodgers fan these days. 

What with the stellar record during the regular season and their GOP-like collapse in the post season. Not just against the Diamondbacks this year, but also their embarrassing performance against the Padres last year.

Here's a Dodgers story that might just cheer you up. 

Or freak you out.

Last year, I believe it was in September, Ms. Muse and I decided to go to a game. As anyone who's ever crammed a $12 Dodger Dog in their gullet and washed it down with a $23 Modelo knows, the parking lot is a bitch (entrance and egress.) It moves slower than the 405 on a Friday afternoon.

As we were crawling up the hill past the Eucalyptus trees and discarded refuse from the previous night's game, we talked about how infrequently either of us actually get out to the Stadium. I average one trip a year. Ms. Muse, whose son works for the Minnesota Twins and is a natural baseball aficionado, went about twice a year. 

We'd both go more if it weren't so excruciatingly painful. Would've been nice if our Mensa city planners had run a train line to Chavez Ravine but these are the same genii who also just missed including LAX as a possible destination.

As we were discussing our fair city's dysfunctional planning, Ms. Muse whipped out her iPhone and found a photo from the last game she had been to. A playoff game against the Cubbies. You can see the photo here. I don't have her friend's permission, so I thoughtfully blocked out her identity.

As you can see, this was taken almost 6 years ago to the day.

While generously allowing a Mazda CX5 to  merge into my lane, I racked my age-addled brain. Seems to me, that Deb and I also went to game against an unnamed playoff-contending team from the Midwest. I had never been to a post season game, and Deb purchased the tickets as an anniversary gift. 

I asked Ms. Muse to hold the steering wheel while I combed through the thousands of photos on my iPhone, including a woman on stilts in downtown Boulder, a mariachi band eating lunch at a Panda Express and many, many graffitied sidewalk transformer boxes, one of myriad of odd fascinations.

I finally found the photo.

And quickly lost my breath...

Note the time stamp. 

Note the proximity in the upper right field deck. 

And note the foul pole, which gives this whole thing a very otherworldly feeling. (Please try to ignore my excess poundage, while you're at it.)

Suffice it to say, that when we discovered this, our jaws hit the floor mats of my prized Audi S5. 

If you've been reading R17 for any time you know I am the world's biggest cynic. I'm a self-avowed  atheist. Have no inclination towards the paranormal, horoscopes, or the supernatural. But this, and the fact that Ms. Muse and I worked together at Bozell Advertising more than 30 years ago and had no contact since then, is enough to make me believe other forces are at work here.

It also demonstrates the unnerving nature of widowhood, where one can be unfathomably sad and happy at the same time.

If this doesn't make you scratch your chin, I don't know what will.


Editorial Footnote: Crazy right? Well, perhaps there's an explanation. From the most unexpected place. Or person. And like everything in the news today it involves Taylor Swift. Maybe you've heard of her. This article was published yesterday and I'm making this addendum because....well, because you have to see for yourself: 



Thursday, October 12, 2023

Mmmmm, propofol

As you go about your morning, a highly skilled surgeon who is half my age, possibly a third, will be slicing me open to make some repairs.

I'm not using the word 'repair' for comical effect. 

The name of this particular surgery is a repair. I'm sworn not to go into specifics, but it turns out my physical invincibility -- the excessive biking, swimming, walking and lifting weights -- was nothing more than a mental delusion.

In short, I overdid it. 

Are you familiar with the expression, "he didn't know his own strength." Apparently I didn't know mine. Because my insides started, and successfully, finding a way to push themselves towards the outside. As a result, I am left unable to pursue one of my self-important goals of bench pressing 300 lbs.

I did, however, manage to hoist up "two plates" for multiple reps and at one point surpassed the recorded efforts of several rookies in their nationally televised NFL Combine. Mostly punters, skinny defensive backs and tired tackling dummies who will never separate their fat asses from the bench.

Hopefully, by the time you are reading this I will be sewn back up and resting comfortably in one of those bendable beds with all the electronic gizmos to meet my every need. 

"I'd like two tacos carne asada, with rice and beans, thank you."

Also, hopefully, I'll be higher than a kite on Percosets or Norvo. Enough so that I won't barf at the site of hospital food. 

Having spent a college summer working at Good Samaritan in Suffern, NY, I know firsthand that inedible hospital food is even more inedible once you see and know what goes on in the kitchen. 

Prior to this "repair", I was told it would be a simple outpatient procedure. And that I'll be back home before the sun goes down today. I have my fingers crossed that all transpires because I've managed to go roughly 66 years without ever spending a full night in a hospital. 

Except for when my kids were making their long awaited arrival and I had to curl up a recliner and contort my spine with more unnatural twists and turns than Trump's single overworked strand of hair.

With any luck I'll wake up tomorrow ready to hit the weights. 

Nothing over 200 lbs.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

My Kryptonite

It's only taken me close to 66 years to learn one of life's great lessons: Step outside your Comfort Zone. Last Saturday night, with ample alcohol-based persuasive plying from Ms. Muse, I did just that. 

More accurately, I left-stepped, right-stepped, then rock-stepped outside my comfort zone and agreed to visit the PBDA, the Pasadena Ballroom Dancing Association for a Beginner Lesson and an opportunity to dance before a live swing band. 

Like most men, I was born with PDD, Permanent Dancing Dysfunction. 

Dancing comes to me like logic and critical thinking come to Red Hats. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a whirl, knowing that the Association was run by a cousin of Ms. Muse, Tami and her sister, Erin. In short, I knew I'd get some special coaching.

And I did.

It all seemed so elementary at first.

Left step, right step, rock step. If only we could have limited the introductory lesson to that. But before my brain had time to form new neural pathways telling my feet what to do, I got slapped upside the head with: "OK, now we're gonna add some twirling and swirling moves for your hands."

My brain went completely Chernobyl. 

I could do the hand thing but completely forgot to keep my feet moving at the same time. And, I was told, keep listening to the music with my ears. The only thing I could hear was my own inner voice, saying: "left step, right step, rock step."

I looked out on the dance floor and could see men, some of whom appeared to be much older and less in shape than me, gliding across the floor. Effortlessly. And with such commanding grace. They were having the time of their life. 

I don't think their inner voice was speaking the same language as mine.

Later, I got the lowdown from Ms. Muse who had a chance to talk with Tami, who said: "There's some hope there."

That's a Euphemistic Translation for: "How can a man who bikes, swims, plays chess, types 50 wpm with two fingers and spent several years learning karate, be so damn clumsy and uncoordinated?"

Challenge, accepted.

I will continue to step out of my Comfort Zone, hoping that I don't step on any toes and create a Discomfort Zone for others.


Tuesday, October 10, 2023

A post about Nothing

I got a text from my youngest daughter yesterday. She wrote: "What do we think is going to happen in Israel?"

Having been through a few of these senseless cycles, I confidently answered her: "Nothing."

Meaning, nothing will change. 

Nothing in terms of reaching a lasting peace. 

Nothing that hasn't already been done a hundred or a thousand times before.

The Israelis will retaliate, en masse. 

The UN will get itself worked in a tizzy, neglecting the fact that just a few hundred miles to the north, President Assad killed hundreds of thousands of his people and exiled millions more. New concrete footings will be poured into the cavities of the ones that were blasted to smithereens by F16 fighter jets.

And the uneasy detente, peppered with random rocket firings and terrorist crackdown, will resume. What's clear from all this is that there is no military solution. 

There never is.

There can only be a political solution. Agreed to by willing partners and leaders. In very spare supply, these days.

Then it occurred to me, literal schmucks like Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan have ascended to occupy one of the 435 most powerful positions in the world. Moreover, an infamous snake oil/real estate salesman has aquanetted and bronzed himself to position himself to reclaim the title as the most powerful man on the planet. 

So, what's to stop me from floating up a geo-political plan worthy of discussion?

The residents of Gaza and the West Bank, see themselves as Palestinians, this despite the historical record showing there has never been a Palestinian people or recognized bloodline, until the British booted the Ottomans and colonized that area of the Fertile Crescent in the early 1900's. 

Let us concede that part of the argument. Because rehashing the past is messy and frankly not going to do anybody any good.

Palestinians want to rule themselves. Fine. They also don't want to live under Israeli rule, this despite the fact that most Arabs living in Israel enjoy a higher standard of living than in the surrounding countries. Particularly the ones from Syria. That's also fine.

Here's my idea: cede the land of Gaza to the Egyptians. Israel already gave back 61,000 square kilometers (Sinai Peninsula), what's 141square miles more? The Egyptians can then grant the residents of Gaza, non-militarized self autonomy. The Palestinians living in Gaza can have their own flag, their currency, their own soccer team, their own self determination.

And then they can stop picking fights with Israel. Which would behoove them in the short and the long run.

If it works out, the same formula can be applied to the majority of the West Bank. 

One might ask, why should the Egyptians and the Jordanians (Arab and Islamic brethren) agree to such an arrangement and incorporate this new land? I would posit for the same reason that Israel was expected to give back land rightfully captured in the defensive wars of '48, '56, 67 and '73.

Granted, this is all reductionist and simplistic thinking. But you know what, it beats the fuck out of NOTHING.


Monday, October 9, 2023

Alert the Authorities!!!

This popped up on my iPhone last Friday night. 

I know that's a hell of a way to start an R17 post and am already having anxiety that you will be letdown. We live in an era of constantly BREAKING NEWS. And thanks to Twitter (or what Ugly Goebbels now calls X) nothing, or everything, is always BREAKING. 

Moreover, it's hardly NEWS when the former president calls one of his ex-cabinet members (the best people) an incompetent fool who was never up to the job.

But the truth is, I've never seen this emergency screen on my iPhone before. And if I have something to say about it I never will.

So here's the scenario. After a delightful, but abbreviated Zoom meeting with my hilarious ex Team One colleagues and a delicious cheat meal with my daughter, I decided to retreat to my backyard for a a glass of Merlot and a dip in the hot tub. 

No sooner than I had lifted the cover, placed my plastic wine glass in the thoughtfully designed cupholders and submerged my naked torso in the 104 degree chemically balanced fizzy water, I was joined by an unexpected guest. From the corner of my right eye I caught a flash of movement. Before I could blink, a baby raccoon had leaped up on one of the deck chairs and flailed itself into the drink -- the hot tub, not the wine.

I let out a yelp, which caught my daughter by surprise and dragged her away from  another insipid episode of Below Deck. And I jumped to attention, ready to swipe the furry rodent/marsupial out of the jacuzzi. The critter, alarmed from the commotion and the sound of a grown man doing his best imitation of a frightened 7 year old girl, wasted no time and needed no assistance. He or she, quickly turned tail, found a slippery edge and with every fiber of its 13-14 lbs. body, Fosbury Flipped its way out.

The whole incident took about 8 seconds.

Enough excitement, apparently, to trigger the All Hands on Deck Alert in Cupertino.

"Calm down, people, we're all good. Just some city slicker not used to living among the wildlife."

My heart rate is no longer in the triple digits but I am making one minor suggestion to the good folks at Apple, a simple addition that can be included on the next ground breaking iteration of the iPhone 16...


Thursday, October 5, 2023

The pen is mightier than the sword

Yesterday I was taking inventory of my R17 posts and realized that due to the extremely busy and fascinating life of a MOSL (Man of Semi-Leisure) I had failed to lock in a post for today, Thursday.

When that happens, I usually turn to my iPhone for a collection of funny and weird pictures I seem to accumulate, like this one...

Or, to my favorite obsession, the slogging demise of our former president. 

That's when it occurred to me that I should pen an open letter to the generals who found themselves working shoulder to shoulder with this sad sack of psychopathic pig shit. If anyone had a chance of swaying the voting public, the thinking went, it would be our former apolitical military leaders.

After all, there's nothing Americans love more than their guns, bibles, KFC, non-gendered beer and old white guys with epaulets and fancy buttons on their chest. 

Sure enough, before I could start with the clicking and clacking, former White House Chief of Staff, General John Kelly was in the news doing exactly what I was going to ask him to do.

"A person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them,'" Kelly said of Trump. "A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘it doesn’t look good for me.’ A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family — for all Gold Star families — on TV during the 2016 campaign, and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France.”

There was much more than that.

Apart from his not-so-brilliant use of the passive voice, it was a stinging rebuke, albeit one that was long overdue.

So that's one.

When are we going to hear from the others? Paging General James "Mad Dog" Mattis. 

You sat next to the 215 lbs. ignoramus, who wanted to (and still wants) to disband NATO even though $1000 says he can't get within 500 miles of locating Lithuania on a map. Or even Germany or France. Are you going to sit on the sidelines and watch whining low information Red Hats coronate our next King? 

What about General H.R. McMaster? You also served in his cabinet and witnessed first hand the monumental level of his jaw-dropping incompetence. 

And what about the countless 2 and 3 star generals who never enjoyed the spotlight but now have an opportunity to serve their country and their Constitution? 

You have a duty and an obligation to protect us from the enemies of democracy. To 81 million of us, it is abundantly clear who that enemy is. 

He's the one with the bad bronzer.

Speak up, or forever hold your swastika armband.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Jerome Ave. revisited

Yesterday was my father's birthday. I believe it would have been his 90th. The date struck me as I was scheduling yesterday's post about being able to watch the Sopranos while pedaling on the Peloton and simultaneously scorching the Corona Light's and Chica's tortilla chips, best tortilla chips on the planet.

The shot above (my dad with the oversized Adrien Brody beak on the right) reminded me of a recent episode where Tony recalls his father's run in with Johnny Law and his father beating the shit out of a local hood who hasn't paid the vig.

Though far from the streets of Newark, New Jersey where the Sopranos made a name for themselves, my father inhabited the even scrappier streets of Da Bronx. And as you might suspect, knew and hung out with many guys named Paulie, Tony, Frankie, Other Paulie, etc.

The guy mugging for the camera looks like a Carmine, but what do I know?

I do know that while I was in college, I needed a job and was tired of washing dishes pots and pans in the dormitory dining halls. Not only did it pay poorly, it never helped my dating profile.

"I'm seeing that funny guy who scrapes mashed potatoes off our dinner plates," said no Muffy, ever.

My father, not wanting to get stuck paying my tuition bills, told me to go see his "pals", Paulie and Frankie, who had just opened a bar near Marshall Street on the Syracuse campus. 

I didn't know any better but I had the gig before I even walked in the door. In the same way Christopher Moltisanti "supervised" construction workers from the seat of his fold up chaise lounge.

"Want to be a bartender?"

"I don't have any experience. And don't know the ingredients for all the drinks."

"It's a college bar, kid. No one comes in here and orders a Rob Roy or a Rusty Nail. You pop open a Molsen, hand them a glass, take their money and move on. Can you start on Friday?"

Best. Job. Ever.

It also occurred to me that while we lived in Jackson Heights, there were many broken nose guys who lived in our building. Many of them came to our apartment on Tuesday Nights, about once a month. They drank whiskey, played poker and smoked cartons of cigarettes. Probably heisted from nearby La Guardia or JFK airports.

Did I mention all this was preceded by my father's one year stint in an Army prison for smoking pot?

He had a mischievous, not to mention contentious, side. 

As I look back on it now, I'm almost certain that once he got his CPA license, he supplemented his income for "friends of his" that needed to hide theirs.

Not sure that having put the pieces together changes the way I view my father and the complicated relationship we once had. But it certainly changes my perspective of watching The Sopranos. 

Pass the canoli.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023


I'm not a winner.

I use that phrase hesitantly, because I'm well aware that in the larger macro planetary picture I have literally won life's lotto. But when it comes to games of chance, contests, random jackpots and even old advertising awards shows, I often came out on the losing end. 

But woe is not me. At least not as of last week when, in my daily routine, I decided to hop on my Peloton for my regular 20+ miles, sometimes 40+, if I've had enough caffeine.

As I have mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of the Chatty Kathys who "teach" the classes. They talk too much. Tell boring stories. And generally grate on me. How hard can it be? You either speed up or slow down. Turn the knob to the left to make it steeper, to the right to make it flatter. That's it. 

Consequently, I often opt for the scenic rides and let Peloton take me to some stunning places in India, Malaysia and Kenya. One of the rides, if you watch carefully, shows a black bear scurrying off the road within gnawing distance of the adventurous riding/filming cameraman.

Now, however, there's a new option to stream. I did a little digging and found out this beta test, including the ability to watch Disney+, MAX, Netflix and CSPAN+ (don't quote me on that) has been offered up to randomized Peloton subscribers.

Somehow, despite the odds that preceded it in 65+ plus years, that includes me!

My thighs are quivering just thinking about it. In one week, I've already made it through half of Season One of The Sopranos. Keep in mind I'm not one for binging. In fact, the notion of sinking into my leather recliner and wittling hours watching reruns makes my considerably smaller stomach turn. 

But this is different. 

Now I can revisit my favorite Mafioso family as well as the local Northern New Jersey haunts of my past (including the Bada Bing which has enjoyed several different monikers) AND burn off thousands of calories of my largely pescatarian diet. Plus, I don't have to listen to some giggly 32 year old instructor telling me how we all need to add more Sparkle to our lives and conquer each day with a Sparkly attitude.

I prefer a well placed...



"Watch the sfogliatyella!"

Where can I get that in Culver City?

Monday, October 2, 2023

Bled Roof Inn

Last week Ms. Muse and I were up in Morro Bay for a big organized bike ride. While we were enjoying some post-ride camaraderie at a local "Mexican" Restaurant (wine-based margaritas are so Epcot Center) we found ourselves in a riveting discussion with fellow cyclists. 

Topic at hand: Motels. 

Fortunately we had other housing arrangements and were not staying at one of Morro Bay's many, many institutions of roadside hospitality. You can't get one full rotation of the bicycle pedals without spotting a motel in Morro Bay, which should be renamed Motel Bay. 

When it comes to inexpensive roadside motels, there's an alarming amount of parity going on. 

Put in football terms, were it not for the color of their uniforms, the NY Jets are essentially the same as the Denver Broncos who are as hopeless as the Chicago Bears.  

In the case of motels, particularly the ones belonging to a chain, like Marriot's 17 branded motels and Hilton's 23 branded motels. There's Comfort Suites, Comfort Lodge, Comfort Inn, Comfort Sleep, Comfort Comfort, and on and on it goes.  You'd have to be a forensic detective to spot the difference.

Or as one of our fellow cyclists so aptly put it, "I don't even know the name of the place we're staying at, but at least it's clean."

BINGO, I thought! 

At least it's CLEAN!

I could not help but to be reminded of a business pitch we did at Chiat so many years ago. Frankly it's a memory I need to have excised from my system as I am still plagued by dreams, nightmares really, of being stuck back at work and trying to come up with yet another campaign. 

Damn you Chiat/Day, the last time I was on staff there was 21 years ago. Can't I punch out yet?

In this one particular instance, we found ourselves pitching Red Roof Inn. The crown jewel of advertising agency accounts. That's when my partner John Shirley and I decided we should hang our hat on the notion of cleanliness. 

Having had experience with franchise operations in the past, we knew we couldn't propose anything that would incur additional operational costs. We once mistakenly suggested Hardees ditch their pan searing of cooking burgers and step up to fire grilled. 

That went over like a rack of spare ribs at a Kol Nidre service.

But cleanliness was something the staff and management could actually live up to. Moreover, it would give the organization a sense of purpose. A mission if you will.

On top of all that, we knew, instinctively that a motel that staked its name on cleanliness would out earn a motel that was perceived to be...well...not so clean.

Picture yourself and your family pulling off the freeway and calling it a day on driving. You just want to get a good night's sleep and find yourself at the freeway off ramp staring at a choice of 4 motels. Which one are you gonna choose? They're all about the same price. They all have lumpy beds. They all have half ply toilet paper. And they all have single pane glass, that won't filter the noise the from the freeway which is within field goal range of any room.

I don't know about you, but I'd want to lay my weary head on the one that at least had the sheen of clean. 

Not only was the thinking bulletproof, so were the ads that sprung forth from such a single-minded proposition. Sadly however, the agency CEO (who I often butted heads with, mine was sober, his was not) disagreed. 

Often vehemently.

We did the pitch (with his strategy, not ours). Several days after the tragedy of 9/11. And the account went bye-bye to some schlocky forgettable agency that did even schlockier forgettable work. Maybe you remember their short lived spokesthingy....

For reasons I can't fathom, this whole debacle has stuck in my craw. 

I never liked being overruled. And even less when I know we were right.

Serenity, now?