I had dinner last night with an old friend.
We had worked together at "the mid-sized agency of the year," Rosenfeld and Sirowitz in the 1980s. We had each hoped to learn from the skill and eclat of two advertising Hall-of-Famers, Ron Rosenfeld (Ron was the first copywriter in the business to earn $100,000) and Len Sirowitz, the art director behind literally hundreds of great ads from DDB.
Alas, Ron and Len had left art behind and we're in full and break-neck pursuit of the crassest of mammon.
I escaped the clutches of the agency in just 20 months--despite them offering to pretty much double my salary. My friend was more tolerant and stayed there for more than a decade before finally landing a job at Ogilvy.
That's where we were re-united, at Ogilvy. And though we were in different groups while there, we had each ascended to pretty lofty titles and had each done work of skill and eclat.
But the industry has changed and fortunes, like the moon, wax and wane.
My friend and I have each--over about the past decade--been wandering Jews. Jumping from one freelance job to the next, with sporadic full-time employment sprinkled here and there.
We spent the evening over taglioni and branzini, crying in our New York tap water.
At one point I told my friend what it was like playing racquet ball with my father. I was sinewy and in shape. My father was dying with his perennial heart attack.
He slaughtered me. Hardly moving from his spot on the court.
I would rocket balls off the walls at impossible angles.
He would shift a centimeter and kill the shot.
I finished our match under buckets of sweat.
He didn't even need a shower.
And this was a man who for all intents and purposes was dead.
It's a funny thing about being in the business for thirty years and near the top for twenty.
You learn the angles.