Friday, September 17, 2021

Five Minutes with Our CBID Officer.



AD AGED: Thank you for taking five minutes to speak with me today. You're the Holding Company's CBID Officer. Tell me, what does that abbreviation stand for?

CBIDO: Rather than try to tell you in words--let me do something special. Let me communicate to you using the language of interpretive dance. [DANCES]

AD AGED: Lovely. But I have no idea what you as a CBID Officer do. Could you clarify in a more conventional way. Like using words.

CBIDO: Here at the Holding Company, we've discovered something. 

At the big moments in people's lives...when they get a raise, when they're approved for a mortgage or a small business loan, when their microwave rings indicating that their Big & Bold Hot Pockets Chicken Bacon Ranch frozen sandwich is ready, you know what most people do?

AD AGED: They get on with their lives?

CBIDO: Don't make me laugh. 

Normal people--whenever something happens--whether they discover they have breast cancer, or they've bought a new foldable Korean phone ostensibly made by de facto slave labor--they break into dance. Ergo, I am the CBIDO.

AD AGED: The Chief Break Into Dance Officer?

CBIDO: Precisely. What's more natural than undulating in public as an expression of your unbridled joy and lack of inhibition. What could be more human than breaking into dance?

AD AGED: I see. So you...

CBIDO: I make sure every commercial begins and ends with people dancing. What could be more real? More uplifting? More empowering...more Dancetastic!

Listen:

Open on a heavyset African American woman who discovers she has cancer.

Cut to the same woman receiving meds from her bifocal'd doctor.

Cut to the same woman--with friends in her cancer support group...they break into dance! 

That's Beckett! That's Albee! That's Shakespeare! A crescendo of humanity expressed in primordial dance.

AD AGED: Well, thank you for your time today.

CBIDO: I'll dance to that!





Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Was there ever?



Was there...

Bacon before there was applewood to smoke it with?

Thinking before design thinking?

Design before design thinking?

Projects to manage before project management?

Ever a time before prime time?

Truth before we co-opted the word authenticity?

Honesty before we bastardized the notion by calling it transparency?

Reality before reality TV?

Anything well-made before we called it robust?

Or anything fast before we took-over the word agile?

Anyone who hated work before we called them toxic?

Jeans for skinny people before skinny jeans?

Good wages before we invented salary bands?

Getting together to work before we scheduled meetings for every minute of the day?

Planning before planners?

Strategy before strategists?

Opinions before focus groups?

Profits before holding companies?

Raises that come more often than every 36-month cycle?

Salaries that combated labor shortages?

Job security before people became disposable?

HR with real humans?

Ever a cannon that wasn't loose.

Toast before avocado?

Coffee where they could spell your name right?

Service with helpful, knowledgeable people?

Ever a good ad derived from data?

Ever good copy written by AI?

Good copy that's survived 17 rounds of revisions?

An evangelical who believes in the Bible--not just the parts they cherry-pick?

Ever a creative holding company? 

A nice way to end things like this?










Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Never forget. Always forget.

A lot of what I see today in the advertising world is a one-time stunt designed, I think, to break through during a news cycle, not to build lasting brand value.


You'll see a brand like Postmates, above, creating a stunt like this with giant pieces of food, hoping that channel 148 Unction News and the Unction News Team will show 30-seconds of tape on their 11PM report, right after an un-popularly-elected ex-president and six-time bankrupt announces a boxing match deemed illegal in California that featured a 58-year-old man beaten in under one round.

A stunt.

AKA "earned media."

The stuff of a million phony case studies and award entries.

Brand value: $0.

When I grew up, we attached the phrases "Never Again," or "Never Forget" to the Nazi Holocausts which killed roughly six-million people, the vast majority Jews.

Today, we attach the same phrases to 9/11, and I suppose there's really nothing wrong with that.

Except, the short-termness of human memory.

The innate short-termness of human memory.

The ever-pressing onslaught of new horrors and new stunts. The crazy pressures on our time. The constant drum-beat of disaster after disaster after outrage after outrage after existential threat after existential threat.

We will forget.

Something will push the Holocaust or 9/11 out of our memories. A new catastrophe will occur. The people who lived through the Holocaust are all but gone. It will be deemed long-ago and far-away, and we won't remember.

That probably pisses you off. 

But we won't remember.

Give it time.

Just as we don't remember selling children away from their families during slavery times. Or thousands of lynchings a year. Or public swimming pools only the white public can use. Or neighborhoods, bank loans and government support unavailable to people of color.

Just as we don't remember the Never Again of mine disasters, of cops firing on strikers with machine guns, of Pearl Harbor, of the "Maine" being blown up, of the carnage of the Civil War or even the murder of small children in schoolhouses, or in the Civil Rights south, little girls in frilly dresses being blown up in churches by white supremacists.

Never again. 

Never forget.

But, I'm sorry, we will.

When I see stunts trumpeted by agencies, written about in the advertising trade press or as part of an agency brief to create a movement, I get a little sick.

It's not just that I dislike this sort of work.

It's that the notion of a quick boom of impact being long-lasting and leading to long-term business gain is a spurious as donald trump's cranial merkin. 

The stunt that makes the front page today is forgotten literally tomorrow. Because there is something new tomorrow that will "put Shakespeare back with the shipping news."

Most advertising today is like diarrhea. 

Most news today is like diarrhea.

It lasts a few days. It might be all-consuming for 72-hours. But then it, and you, move on.

Long-term effect?

Zero.

If you can take 20 minutes and sit down with a pencil and a piece of paper and write down five taglines you can think of, I'll bet you'll discover or discern something.

Most of the taglines were from the inundation period of media. Many of them haven't run for decades. But we remember.

Because we heard them over and over.

Because clients and agencies didn't believe you could make a lasting impression throwing confetti into a fan.

It takes time. Money. Repetition.

They spent the money. They had the patience to build something. They gave work time to work.

Otherwise, people will forget.

Not never.

But soon.

--

Here are the first 25 tags I remember. 

1. Have it your way.

2. When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

3. The quicker-picker-upper.

4. The ultimate driving machine.

5. It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.

6. We try harder.

7. Nixon's the one.

8. Mmmm, mmmm good.

9. Got milk.

10. A different kind of car; a different kind of car company.

11. Don't leave home without it.

12. For everything else, there's Mastercard.

13. This Bud's for you.

14. It's Miller Time.

15. Tastes great. Less filling.

16. Because so much is riding on your tires.

17. Think different.

18. Just do it.

19. Fly the friendly skies.

20. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

21. I love NY.

22. We run the tightest ship in the shipping business.

23. The antidote to civilization.

24. Give a damn.

25. 15 minutes can save you 15 percent.



Monday, September 13, 2021

A guest post. From Joel Simon

Editor's note: 
Joel Simon--the great "Music Guy," Joel Simon and I have been social-media-connected for probably five years. We don't really know each other but I've always admired his work and wanted to work with him.

Some weeks ago, Joel wrote an article that I loved. I sent him a note and asked if he's like to re-post it in this space. Fortunately for all of us, Joel said yes.

 

IMHO, there's a lot we can learn from Joel. About passion. About love. About work. And about working with people you like.

 

Last thing from me: Today is Joel's birthday. So send him a note at Joel@jsmmusic.com and say, "thank you for your wisdom and words." That will be a nice gift for all of Joel's gifts.

 







JOEL WRITES:

 

3 years ago today, JSM moved into its new home.
3 years ago today, I wrote the below about the move.
3 years ago today, seems literally, like yesterday.
Jesus. What an amazing, fortunate, and insane 3 years it has been.
-------------------------
I’ve been in this business a long time. So long in fact, that I have some employees that are younger than the number years I have spent in this business. Ridiculous.

I started working 2 weeks after graduating college and have not stopped since. During that time, I've seen and experienced it all: euphoria, despair, success, disappointment, and everything in-between. Through it all, JSM has been extremely honored and humbled to be recognized in our industry, thousands of times for our work, all over the world, by our clients, their clients, consumers, the unsuspecting general public and our incredibly talented and formidable competitors.
 
I have always believed that the work we create is only as good as our clients allow it to be. We always push for better and never settle for less. Fortunately, our clients have allowed us, and continue to allow us, that latitude. We get to work with the finest talent in the world, across every possible creative discipline, always creating something from nothing, reaching hundreds of millions of people with our craft and then, if and when all the stars align, we get rewarded with some shiny new hardware to put in a closet somewhere. If not, fuck it, as long as the work we create is stellar and meaningful. Mission always accomplished.
 
I promised myself from the beginning that I would stop doing what I do when it's not fun and meaningful anymore. When I don't wake up with it every morning or take it to bed with me every night. When some production we are a part of doesn't give me the chills, makes me tear up, makes me proud, laugh hysterically or positively affect our clients business or mission. Life is way too short to settle and I'm not going anywhere, anytime soon.
 
So, I’m still having fun and decided to build this, a new home for JSM. A modern state-of-the-art creative playground, naturally with my motorcycle in the lobby. Rather than taking any chips off the table, I doubled down. Maybe even tripled down. Maybe I need my fucking head examined.


I love this business, all the clients who have become such dear friends, the incredibly talented staff and talent all over the world I get to work with, 24/7.
 
So, come on over to the new spot. Hang out on one of the terraces over some cocktails, we’ll have a jam session and live a little. Most of you are responsible for all of this anyway, so it’s already kind of yours. So, thank you for your faith and trust in JSM and cheers to many more years and great times ahead.
 
Oh, and if I haven’t bored you all to fucking tears yet, here’s our new website...https://jsmmusic.com/

 

---

TEN THINGS YOU CAN LEARN FROM JOEL.

(A CHEAT SHEET.)

 

1. The work we create is only as good as our clients allow it to be.


2. Work is euphoria, despair, success, disappointment, and everything in-between.


3. Work with the finest talent in the world.


4. Stop doing what you do when it's not fun and meaningful anymore.


5. Life is way too short to settle.


6. Rather than taking any chips off the table, double down. Maybe even triple down.


7. What we do should give me the chills, make me tear up, make me proud, laugh hysterically and positively affect our clients business or mission.


8. Thank people for their faith and trust.


9. Love this business, all the clients who become such dear friends. Love the incredibly talented staff and talent all over the world we get to work with, 24/7.


10. Cheers to many more years and great times ahead.

 


Friday, September 10, 2021

Working with my father.


When I was a kid, my father went through jobs like an oil company clear cuts through the Amazon. He wasn't one to sit behind a desk in an office. If he were in an office, he'd probably have spent as much time thinking about how to get out of the office as he spent there in the first place. He was more like an unbroken bull than a father. Just, probably, a little more dangerous.

One night, he came home from somewhere and he was flush--flush with money. That was a rarity when I was growing up. We didn't live paycheck-to-paycheck. We lived paycheck-to-two-days-eating-salami-sandwiches-to-paycheck.

But one night my old man came home with a stash of bills in his wallet. Maybe he had put a $20 on the nose of Neer-do-Well at Aqueduct. Maybe he sold my mother's diamond ring. 

"Where'dya get it," I heard my mother ask him.

"Remember that song I wrote for Woody and the Termites?"

"Which one?" my mother shrewed. "There were dozens."

"That novelty song," my father stammered.

"You ain't exactly Cole Porter," my mother clarified. "Which novelty song?"

My father sang a little bit now. Haltingly and in a slight falsetto voice. 

"When all the stars in heaven
Ask for bread they want unleavened.
You don't need a Nasa rocket,
That's a matzoh in your pocket."

My mother scoffed, "someone bought that? That's trayf."

"They love it up in the Catskills, in Ellenville, at the Nevele, at Grossingers," my old man said, "They love it to the tune of a $2,000 royalty check."

Before the ink was dry on the check, my father had rented an empty cave of a failed restaurant down the crooked street from our tilted house in Yonkers, New York. He had decided that what our neighborhood needed was what he called "the last place you go before you go home." A place to hang-out once you left your hang out.

Next, he found some faux-medieval armor and decorated the place with old lances, helmets, coats-of-arms and the like. Finally, a neon sign was installed. It said "The Knight Spot. Open 25 hours."

That's the father I remember most. The guy who decided to open up a 24-hour diner and run the place himself, with no staff whatsoever, save me, 8, and my brother, 10, ready to grease a burger or mop the linoleum when we got home from school.

I always thought of my father as maybe a combination of Willy Loman and Macbeth. Grand aspirations. Maybe even a strong character. But ultimately, like Willy, unable to get by on a smile and a shoeshine. Undone by ego, ambition and maybe too little talent.

After 40 years in the advertising business, I wonder if I'm running a 24-hour diner by myself. Sure, I have an account director to help me with large pieces of business. And my breathtakingly level-headed wife works as my CFO. Thank god for them.

And thank god, that for all the shit I endured as a child. Accordingly, I was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad. That, as serious as I am about life, I don't take life too seriously. I can laugh to keep from collapsing.

Mostly, I was born with a sentence that Athena--the goddess of wisdom spoke to her favorite of all mortals, Odysseus. “Few sons are the equals of their fathers. Most fall short, all too few surpass them.”

I suppose that knocks me down a peg.

So I work only 21-hours a day.

Ok.

Maybe 22.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Dismal economics.


When I was a kid, like most kids of my generation, I grew-up with Depression-era parents who tossed nickels around like manhole covers.

Both my parents' mothers had raised them virtually alone. My mother's father, whom I never met, was a drunk and a gambler and made his meager living, when he wasn't drunk or gambling, carving gravestones for local mortuaries. He gave me my non-inconsiderable eye for type.

My father's father, whom I never met, died when my father turned 12 or 13. And before that had worked hard to earn the sobriquet, "The worst tailor in all of Philadelphia." He gave me my not-inconsiderable sartorial sense.

My parents, bent on getting more out of life, saved bakery string, used tinfoil, waxed paper and anything else that wasn't toxic and a few things that were, like their relationship.

Money being a crushing presence in my tilted little childhood home, when my older brother turned 13 or so, he dutifully got a paper-route in the neighborhood. Two years later, when I turned 13, I inherited his rounds from him and assumed the august mantle of "bread-winner."

In the late 1960s, the economics of paper delivery was probably not much changed from the rules that prevailed 50 years earlier. The Paper assigned you a route with between 40 and 50 houses. 

You got two cents a delivery per day and tips. The math went like this. Forty houses times two cents equaled eighty-cents a day times six days/week. Or $4.80. Plus on average twenty-five cents tip per house, or $10/week. On a good week, when everyone paid up, you could bring in about $15. And there was no tax to pay--or at least, we didn't pay it. That wasn't terrible money for a kid in 1971 when a candy bar cost a nickel, Mad Magazine 30-cents and a comic book 12-cents.

I learned in that job, and in subsequent jobs as an attendant in a game room of a local amusement park, and a night-cashier in a liquor store on Rush Street in Chicago, that wages were pretty much fixed.

My liquor store days. A mixture of rain, cigarette smoke and neon.

Sure, I could have added five more houses to my route, or clocked six overtime hours in the liquor store, but my wages were stuck at paltry. There really was no getting ahead.

Even my first career, as a putative English professor was pretty much the same deal. If all went well, I would ascend slowly from instructor to assistant professor to associate to full. Maybe I'd get to department head or, ahem, Dean of Student Affairs, but your course--and rise so to speak--was predetermined, slow and grueling. 

When I gave up Academe for the "fleshpots of Madison Avenue," I had hoped to be escaping for the methodicalness of the corporate rise. Advertising, when I entered the business, was still marked by steep rises and even some wildly successful careers.

In other words, you could make a lot of money. And quickly.

Today, on occasion, people ask me, "How's your agency going?"

I let, usually, out a long sigh. And then say, "Well, it's a ton of work. But I'll tell you, for the first time in a long time, working for myself has restored the relationship between work and pay. The more I work--and I work 20 hours a day, seven days a week--the more I work, the more I earn.

The more I work, the more I earn.

The promise of work--of more work earning you more money--is broken. The promise of work--of getting loyalty in exchange for your loyalty--is broken. The promise of work--which is essentially an exchange of giving and getting--is broken.

There have been a thousand and nine articles of late about the dying or the re-dying or the moribund-ness of the ad business. Of the shortage of people. Of the near impossibility of finding talent. And so on.

But for my two cents, the rules of economics and the golden rule have both been abrogated by the current state of affairs.

Shortage of people BUT wages won't go up.

Talent's available BUT they won't be hired (too old, too non-diverse.)

Years of service BUT utterly dispensable.

I never really bought into the punditry who said "this is broken in advertising or that is broken." Advertising's broken because  industry capital acts as a monopolistic entity. It competes only on offering a market-grabbing price. It devalues work. It devalues its people. And so forth.

Work and reward are supposed to be connected.

In today's advertising industry, they're not.

That's the issue.

Period.





Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Love and hate. And life.


The depressingness of "content" out in the world is enough to make me--already a cynic, a misanthrope, a contrarian--a thrower of social-media Molotov cocktails. I already block many people and companies that post such platitudes. When I see little embroidered inscriptions on my wife's athletic socks that say, "You go girl," I want to jump on a horse, grab a scimitar and ride like a Cossack through the world of dumb-dumbitude.

I am so sick of these banalities. The imperatives to "live your best life." Philosophies on coffee mugs or breakroom posters. I am so sick of fortune cookies posing as philosophy. The Oprah-ization of Socrates. The substitute of anything from macro-biotic food to macro-biotic thinking for struggle, that it very nearly makes me sick.

Primary among these spiritual solicitudes is the popular, "Do what you love."

As if life is that simple.

I'd love to be a 7'2" center and have Wilt Chamberlain numbers for the New York Knicks, but I'm a foot short of that height, blessed with more than my fair share of extra adipose and, like the great fighter, Roberto Duran, have manos de piedra, "hands of stone." 

I'd love to be a lanky long-distance runner, training at altitude with a set of abdominal muscles as neatly ordered as a German military platoon.

I'd love to be ensconced in a small Ivy League college, up to my pupick in tweed, publishing books on obscure World War II battles and writing important, universal tomes on the literature of oppression. I'd love to have a thousand sheaves of yellow legal paper with my lecture notes scrawled on them, and be followed around the leafy campus like I was the member of a boy band, not a jowly old intellectual with a universal field theory that no one else abides by.

I'd love all those things and more. I'd love to be Scrooge McDuck, swimming through a swimming pool of gold coins. I'd love to have the house between Jagger's and Mary Wells' on Mustique and have them over for conversation and card games as we watch the sunset. I'd love a trillion things and more and I will never have them, because this is life, not a motivational poster.

Of course, we should do what we love. We should love whom we love. Eat what we love. Wear what we love. Watch what we love. Drive what we love. Live where we love next to people we love. 

Of course.

But we must also remember, to do anything you love, you must also do what you hate.

Despire. Abhor. Can't stand. Hope-you-can-procrastinate away. Wish you could age out of. 

We have to do what we hate.

If you're lucky enough to have had a long career that you've loved, as I have, you have to do what you hate.

You have to go to fucking asinine meetings that always start late and are almost always led by a tin-pot ECD who likes the hear himself talk.

You have to always have late night stupid sessions to answer creative riddles or marketing muddles you had answered weeks ago, but now you have to bring other people along.

You have to listen to c-level poseurs strut on stage with microphones of self-importance getting the rank and file--and just the plain old rank, to cheer for them and their brilliance. 

You have to timesheet, nod politely, jump in and write the script for the piece of shit video to scratch someone else's ego itch that no one else could write.

You have to abide by the credit grabbers and pontificators and petty technocrats who decide that they're cool and you're not and do everything in their feeble power to make you feel like crap.

You have to do all these things you hate and a billion more, because that's life.

In fact, this mania about doing what we love might be the precipitant behind the downfall of both America and that advertising industry.

"I'm not wearing a mask."

"I'm not paying taxes."

"I'm not treating another as a human."

"I'm not doing the hard-work of brand-building."

"I'm not slogging away learning the product, listening to engineers, verifying facts."

Why should we? 

We don't love those things.

And we should do what we love.

The great Steve Hayden, whom I'm still lucky enough to be working with, once told me, "The secret to work is spending 80 percent on the 20 percent of work that you like. And 20 percent on the 80 percent you can't stand."

The secret isn't to ONLY do what you love, key is to get very good at grunt stuff, very good at the window-washing no one else knows how to do or is not mensch enough to do them. 

The homily that should guide us is not "do what you love." It should be do what needs to be done and do it nobly and without complaint. Do it well. Do it quietly. Do it because it's your duty and your honor and your meaning to do it.

I once heard this said about a certain lofty agency personage. "There's no turbulence at 50,000 feet."

The truth is, turbulence is life.

It's what we have to deal with.

How we deal with it is what makes us human.

Or as the Tennessee Williams' "Big Daddy" said in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof":

"You and Skipper and millions like you are living in a kids' world. Playing games, touchdowns, no worries, no responsibilities. Life ain't no damn football game. Life ain't just a buncha high spots.

"You're a thirty-year-old kid. Soon you'll be a fifty-year-old kid. Pretendin' you're hearin' cheers when there ain't any. Dreamin' and drinkin' your life away. Heroes in the real world live twenty-four hours a day, not just two hours in a game. Mendacity! You won't...


"You won't live with mendacity? Well, you're an expert at it! The truth is pain and sweat and payin' bills and makin' love to a woman that you don't love any more. Truth is dreams that don't come true, and nobody prints your name in the paper 'til you die."

Truth isn't fake ads and 700 awards and Cannes and multi-million dollar shoots and concocted case-studies and agency models that magically make the long, slow slog of work evaporate and turn every page of pompous powerpoint into a prescription for a rocketship to stardom.


We might want to do love we love.


But as a human and as an industry, we'd be better off doing what we do with love.


With a passion for sweat and struggle and rewriting and doing it right. With love of work. With love of helping clients who pay us and young people who want to make it. With a love of integrity even when we're doing something you hate.




Tuesday, September 7, 2021

For Terry. Wherever I may find him.

It had been too long since I had been in the city. With my ever-loving not willing to make the trip, late one night--late for me anyway--I fired up my 1966 Simca 1500 and started the 100-mile trek.



I say trek because when you have a 1966 Simca even a two-mile drive to the Citgo station is a journey into the unknown. You don't know what will happen, what will fling itself from the car, or when something will start-or-stop-working as it should. And old car--especially an old car like a Simca--is like having in your possession a genie's bottle. With smoke, sometimes blue, sometimes red, sometimes green coming out its business-end, you never quite know if your mobility wishes will be granted or denied.

Part of the charm in days of yore, of course, was not knowing where you were headed. Of turning left instead of right and finding a general store that's been selling the same fresh-squeezed lime-rickeys since 1931, and they're like nothing else you've ever had. That's all gone with ever-present GPS that charts the location of your nasal backwash when you sneeze.

Today, everything that should be a mystery is sure of itself. And everything that should be a sure thing is a mystery--like plane schedules, mail delivery and even presidential elections. Like in Shakespeare's Macbeth, we live in a topsy-turvy world where fair is foul and foul is fair. No good will come of this. Listen, is that Banquo's ghost? Or Bret Kavanaugh?

After entering the interstate and accelerating for a good minute and a half, I finally got the Simca up to 80 and I stayed wedged in the fast-lane behind an 18-wheeled behemoth probably taking used-Covid-masks to some fetid landfill out in Jersey. But the guy behind the wheel was a good driver, bent on keeping an even speed, and I tucked in close to enjoy his slipstream, my broken fuel gauge moving even less than usual.

After 90 minutes, I veered off of 95 and onto the Bruckner, a highway only slightly less bumpy than the road from Peshawar to Kandahar. I crossed from east to west the Bronx, skidded down Alexander Avenue to take the free bridge over the Harlem River and avoid Robert Moses' Triboro toll-booths. When Moses built the Triboro, the tolls, it was said, would pay for the bridge in five years, then disappear. It's 85 years later now and they cost roughly a private-school tuition.

Seconds later I veered off the cantilevered bridge and was scooting down Second Avenue, timing the lights with the prowess of an old Jewish cabbie. I made it without stopping at a red-light all the way down from 126th Street to 97th Street, a modern-day record. 


At 97th, I saw three burly Puerto Rican fishermen carrying their bait and tackle, heading home from a night on the river to the fluorescent-lit apartments over in the Stanley M. Isaacs Houses, a public project that hasn't seen a coat of paint since Robert Wagner was mayor.

Stopped at the light, I rolled down my window, and asked, in my terrible Spanish,

"How was the fishing?"

The shortest of the three men, the one with the heaviest stubble answered in his terrible English, "The fishing is always good, mi amigo. It is the catching that varies."

"That is Kierkegaard, is it not," I parried.

"Who else," the stubbled piscator replied.

I yanked the Simca over to the curb--I was within the limits of the unwritten laws of Saturday night driving in New York and was only triple-parked. I asked the men if they were thirsty for una cerveza. Before I knew it, the threesome were piled in the rear vinyl, their long fishing gear scratching the sky out from my back windows.

When you've lived in New York as long as I have, you either get good at the city or you don't. The main barometer is, of course, your ability to find a parking space within spitting distance of wherever it is you're going. With that, I pulled right in front of the bar that has no sign and my three Puerto Rican philosophers and I went down four hallways, up five more, through six or eight galvanized steel-clad doors and then stepped inside the dull incandescence of the Tempus Fugit.

I sat in my usual seat, one in from the end of the bar. Two of my new friends sat to my left, the shortest, stubbliest one, sat to my right.

"Four Pikes'," said the bartender. He began filling small six-ounce juice glasses with the nectar.

"The Ale that Won for Yale," one of the fishermen said, reading the dull, dusty neon. "What means that."

The bartender placed a glass of amber in front of each of us on damp coasters that had edges that curled up.

"You'll know when you taste it," he answered.

We dinked glasses like Terry Malloy did with Edie Dugan in "Waterfront." I gave them my best back-of-the-throat Brando, "Here's to the foist one. I hope it ain't d' last. Dink."

And we downed our suds in one ball-game-sized gulp. Quick as a tax-collector, the bartender had our glasses filled again. Then he began with the evening's line of questioning.

"Who are the mugs?" he asked, working his damp cloth over the gleaming mahogany. 

"Practitioners of the Piscine Arts," I answered. "They have lived in the Stanley M. Isaacs Houses since they were, in the words of Slip Mahoney, "destructed" in 1965. Yet they have never heard of the Tempus Fugit, despite living in your veritable shadow.

"Welcome, friends." The bartender offered, extending his giant mitt to each as a greeting. "Welcome to the Tempus Fugit, where time stays still because it flies."

The shortest one said, "That is Kierkegaard, is it not?"

As an answer, the bartender slid over two small wooden bowls of salted Spanish peanuts. In unison, we each extended a hand and pushed them away. "A pound in every nut," I offered.

"And where is Whiskey tonight? You don't often come in without your furriest friend."

"She is dreaming of ducks and fish on the Connecticut coast," I answered. "Just a quick trip for me. I needed the city and a Pike's. And of course, the prevailing ambiance."

"As Frost wrote," the bartender began, "the Californian with the Yankee accent, '
Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.'"

"Si," said the smallest, stubbliest and most talkative of the fisherman. "That is why we are on the East River even when there are no fish. It reminds us of home."

"It takes us in," said another of the men.

The four of us, again in unison, drained our juice glasses and pushed back from the mahogany our stools. 

I slid a $50 to the bartender. 

"Does that cover it?" I asked.

"On me," he answered. "And welcome home."

Monday, September 6, 2021

Rosh HaRepost.

THIS IS A ROSH HASHANAH REPRINT FROM YEARS AGO,
WHEN THE WORLD WAS SOMEWHAT COOLER.

-


If you know me at all, you know I am far from being religious.

I can’t really abide in the “goodness of god” when god has been so conspicuously absent when she was needed most—like when six million of her “chosen” peeps were being shot, gassed, tortured, incinerated and such by the better part of what we used to call the civilized world. As Woody Allen once said, “If it turns out that there is a God...the worst that you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever.”
However, I am a Jew. My wife believes in a higher power. And there is much in the structure and philosophy of the religion that makes sense to me.

Many of the few remaining Jews left on the planet are observing over the next week or so the holiest days of their year. And while I don’t go to synagogue (it’s so boring, I almost shot myself in the temple) I do, as instructed, look back at my year and consider my actions, atone for all those things I have done wrong, and moving forward make an attempt to be better.

During Yom Kippur, Jews traditionally recite something called the Al Chet ten times. (I realize the Hebrew words Al Chet sound like they belong to a midwestern sports-reporter, so say them the proper Semitic way, with a little spit in them.)

The Al Chet is like Kasey Kasem’s Top 40. They’re the recitation and confession of the biggest, most universal and most human of sins. Not of the “I left the refrigerator door open” ilk. The Al Chet confesses serious shit—hard-heartedness, impurity of speech, disrespect, evil talk. And so on.

It’s how Jews ask forgiveness and atone.

So, simply, I am asking forgiveness and atoning.

From Holding Company chieftains in their wood-panelled, thickly-carpeted, high-floored corner officers…

From dais denizens, pontificators, poobahs and influencers…

From agency CCOs, Group Executive Senior Vice Creative Directors, Global CCOs, North American CCOs, Midwestern CCOs, Northern Ohio CCOs…

From Planners, Strategists, Engagement Strategists, Engagement Planning Strategists, Strategists of Engagement Planning and Unplanning

From Directors, to Producers, Associate Producers, Assistant Producers, Key Grips and that catering woman I insulted in California because my eggs were runny…

From Project Managers and Managers of Projects…

From Time Sheet Tyrants…

From all those entities and more, I hereby confess my many many many sins.

For the sin I have sinned when I have thought differently.
For the sin I have sinned when I made a joke during a meeting.
For the sin I have sinned when I wrote something instead of talking about writing something.
For the sin I have sinned because I am old.
For the sin I have sinned because I am old and still energetic.
For the sin I have sinned because I am old and still energetic and still ambitious.
For the sin I have sinned because I have questioned you.
For the sin I have sinned when I asked you to explain.
For the sin I have sinned when I tried to lead with a channel other than broadcast.
For the sin I have sinned because I made myself a product expert.
For the sin I have sinned because I believe people want information.
For the sin I have sinned because I believe people will read what interests them.
For the sin I have sinned because I favor conversations over texts.
For the sin I have sinned for not using jargon.
For the sin I have sinned because I don’t believe ______ is dead.
For the sin I have sinned because I still don’t know what agile means.
For the sin I have sinned because I don’t believe agile has a place in creative.
For the sin I have sinned because I believe advertising is a service business, not a servile one.
For the sin I have sinned because I leave nine-hour meetings early.
For the sin I have sinned because I suck at small-talk.
For the sin I have sinned because I don’t allow myself to be cookied.
For the sin I have sinned because I use ad-blockers.
For the sin I have sinned because I don’t ass-kiss.
For the sin I have sinned because I trust myself.
For the sin I have sinned because I spend too much time helping young people.

For all these sins and a trillion more, I ask forgiveness and pardon.

And Happy New Year.