Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Howl, 2019. (With apologies to Allen Ginsburg.)

I saw the best minds of my holding company destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through conference rooms at dawn looking for an angry deck,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry job-coded machinery of commerce,
who meeting after meeting, and twelve rounds of creative to hollow-out the wit and humor and life,
sat up in the supernatural darkness of open-plan offices floating across the tops of cities contemplating noise-cancellation,

who bared their brains to Heaven and under the Sorrell, saw Wrennish angels staggering on agency roofs illuminated,
who passed through ad schools with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Cannes and Archive’d tragedy among the scholars of ads,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & human resource odes on the windows of what had been souls,
who cowered in unshaven conference rooms in ripped jeans, burning their money on useless tattoos and listening to the Terror through the wall,

who got busted in their Williamsburg flats, the non-running L-train, returning through Greenpoint with a belt of quinoa for New York,
who ate kale in paint hotels or drank pinot in the Ace bar, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and two percent raises every thirty-six months.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

An IM from out of the blue.

Yesterday, I got a Facebook IM from completely out of the blue, and it really knocked me for a loop.

It was from a guy who lived down the block from me when I was growing up. It started with the words, “You probably don’t remember me.” And he was right, I didn’t.

I have a compendious memory about certain things, and a near photographic memory about many others. But much of my benighted youth I have blocked—and why wouldn’t I? Between the neglect and the beatings, there were some bad times, too.

That said, I never did drugs and was never that interested in drinking. My way of dealing with the vicissitudes of my fractured up-bringing was to stick my nose inside a book and when I wasn’t reading, I’d be out playing ball somewhere—anywhere to escape my whereabouts.

But let me put all that behind me—it’s been almost fifty years. Instead, I’ll talk about the IM that threw me.

“George,” the note began, “George, I doubt you remember me, but I lived at __________, just across the bottom of your street. I was searching for people from the old neighborhood, including Nancy. I then came across the news of her passing 11 years ago. I’m sorry for your loss. She was a wonderful friend to many of us.”

Nancy, as many of my readers know, was my baby sister, two years my junior. She died on Mother’s Day in 2007 at the age of 47. (I was about to write "the too-young age of 47," but when your sister dies, the truth is, she would always be too-young.)

Nancy had just bought a large Ducati motorcycle and early Mother’s Day morning she was driving it up 12th Avenue. A drunk ran across the road against the light, as drunks do. She swerved to avoid him and, unused to the weight and the balance of the bike, and swerving and braking quickly, the bike tumbled on top of her crushing her to death.

The police told me she died almost instantly. Her face, when I saw her at the Chief Medical Examiners looked like she'd been on the receiving end of Sonny Liston's fists.

The IM I received brought all this home to me, though to be clear, my thoughts of Nancy are never far away. In fact, when I’m at the beach, playing with Whiskey, I often sense Nancy alongside me, laughing and smiling as I do, as Whiskey gallops in the surf after her toy rubber duck.

I think about Nancy when we have big family dinners, or steaming hot soup dumplings from Joe’s Shanghai down on Pell Street. Nancy knew how to eat and like me, there was little she enjoyed more than a good Chinese meal, or my wife’s brisket with some greasy kasha varnishkas along for the ride.

I think about Nancy when I’m with my own kids, up on the Cape, and just hanging out around the house, or playing in the too-cold surf, or burning the life out of meat on the charcoal grill.

I think about Nancy when things are shitty at work. When good people and friends leave, when you feel like things are collapsing around you, or when you just feel a deficit of life and enthusiasm, and life feels like less than living.

I think about Nancy.

As the IM I received yesterday morning said, “she was a wonderful friend to many of us.”

Me, especially.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Perché la minestra si fredda.

Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin wrote what may be the saddest song ever.

I am a resilient sort.

And it's not too often I feel like hanging up my cleats. 

But last week, for any number of reasons, I felt like punching that big time-clock in the sky for the final time. 

I thought about my baseball hero, catcher Red Traphagen, who played for the great New York Mammoth teams on the 1950s. Traphagen split open a finger having caught badly a fastball. With not much more precipitant than a normal amount of pain, Traphagen returned to the Mammoth dugout and said simply to his manager, Dutch Schnell, "That is sufficient." With that, he quit the club and that was that.

In other words, he had had enough. Like I had. Enough of work. Enough of people. Enough, even, of writing in this space.

Of course, the stock market faltered last week. Dropping my life's investment in equities by a sad and staggering amount. Did that keep me from pulling a Traphagen? From closing the MacBook Pro and proclaiming this "my final inning."

I thought about the words above in the title, the Italian. They're the last words the great Leonardo wrote in his famous mirror script in the last of his notebooks.

I thought about the bullshit, of course. But I thought more of the joy and exhilaration I get from work. Of the work I want to do, of the people who rely on me, and the people I rely on. I thought even of the love I have of the people, the job, the client and the agencies.

So, I have two potential endings to this sad tale. Traphagen's, which I'm not quite yet ready to say, and Leonard's above.

"Perché la minestra si fredda."

"Whatever, the soup is getting cold."

Friday, October 12, 2018

2nd and Final Warning - You will be locked out of Email.

Each of you who are Bcc'd on this note received your first warning on Tuesday regarding outstanding time sheets. By outstanding, I don’t mean very good. I mean I haven’t yet received them.

This is unacceptable.

You will be locked out of email tomorrow, Friday at 1 pm EST, if your time sheets are not brought up to date by end of day today.

Also, if your time sheets are not brought up to date by end of day today, the cafeteria will charge you $1.75 for a banana, $2.50 for two (small) hard-boiled eggs, and a simple wilted salad will run you $17.75. Things will be that harsh.

To avoid being locked out, you need to submit all outstanding (see note above regarding the word outstanding) time sheets to date, including the time sheet for last week.  Please see the email sent this morning from Time Sheet Compliance for the specific dates. 

Please note, if you do not bring your time sheets up to date and are locked out of email, the only way to have your email unlocked is by completing your timesheets.

Please bring your time sheets up to date TODAY to avoid being locked out. 

Further penalties for non-compliance include but aren’t limited to:
1.    Shrill notes from people you don’t know in ugly colors.
2.    Use of random and non-sensical CAPITALIZATION.
3.    Random threats randomly delivered.
4.    Unnecessary elaboration of the meaning of the word outstanding.


If you are still locked after completing your time sheets or need to confirm the dates that are missing, please call _________________


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Two Ton Tony Galento and me.

I'm more than 90% positive that you've never heard of the old pugilist "Two Ton" Tony Galento. Back in the 1930s, Galento rose to the top ranks of heavyweight fighters because he was tough as nails. 

Galento was resolutely out of shape. He routinely trained on buckets of beer and dozens of hotdogs. He would eat whole cloves of raw garlic and breathe heavily on his opponents, sickening them with the stench. He'd scratch and gouge and low-blow and fall on guys. Any brutal tactic to gain an edge.

In the film above, the surpassingly hard-punching Galento knocks to the canvas with his powerful left-hook in the third round perhaps the greatest fighter of all time, Joe Louis.

And there's a lesson in that.

Sometimes you take a blow from a Galento-like opponent. A foe who will do anything, fair or not, to take you out.

When that happens, and you hit the floor, when you're dazed and hurt and damaged and you don't know if you'll ever stand with dignity again, you could look to Joe Louis.

Louis gets back up.

And he doesn't change who he is.

He doesn't "lose it." He doesn't alter his game-plan. Instead, he summons up the strength and courage. You might say, if you were bold, that Louis stays calm and sticks to his knitting. He fights his fight. And recovers to pepper away at Galento.

By the fourth round Louis had beaten Galento silly, and knocked him out.

That's what you learn through the years.

Be true to who you are. Do what you do.

And even if thugs knock you down, you get up again. And you'll prevail.