Monday, October 31, 2016

A day in New York.

As I do nearly every weekend, we drove up to the half-mile long horseshoe of white sand called Playland beach and frolicked with Whiskey and thirty or so other dogs in the still warm surf.

Whiskey galloped out of the Simca, ran across a parking lot or two, then across the boardwalk, then waited for me to shove open the door in the green wrought iron fence.

She hustled down the ramp to the sand and waited for me to hurl her duck into the sea. I grabbed the rubber avian toy and gave it a good chuck, torn rotator cuff notwithstanding.

The canard splashed ten yards out into the clear surf and Whiskey hopped the waves like a California beach boy and swam back and dropped the quacker at my feet.

We walked along the beach, half-mile after half-mile tossing and fetching and tossing and fetching for a good 90 minutes. Along the way, there was this dog or that who tried to steal from Whiskey her duck, but she was having none of it.

What Whiskey lacks in aggressiveness, she makes up in persistence. If a dog stole her decoy, she would stalk him like James Comey after a stray email or Chris Christie after a donut or Donald Trump after a can of spray tan.

Eventually, Whiskey's adversaries would tire of their stolen toy, and Whiskey would dart in and once again reclaim her hegemony over her mallard. We would then begin again the never-ending (I hope) play of tossing and fetching.

When Whiskey was fully fatigued and my right wing's rotator and accompanying arthritis was burning like a coke oven, I toweled Whiskey off and piled her into the back seat of my 50 year old machine. I buckled her into a seatbelt in the back, a precaution against crazy drivers in an age where no one any longer uses turn signals or expresses even a modicum of driving courtesy. No, the world, almost every aspect of it has become every man for himself. There's only one person who matters, most people seem to say, and that person is me.

If you are occupying asphalt where I'd like to be, well, damn you, I am going there, and you best get out of the way. The worse the driver, I've found, the more behemoth their vehicles. And as much as I love my Simca 1600, she will not fare well against a kiss, even a peck from a 5,000-pound Chevrolet Suburban that is larger than approximately 17% of all New York City apartments.

We headed south back toward the city, switching from the New England Thruway south on exit 14 to the Hutch, also south. We skirted the swamps, the giant bus parking lots and the towering co-ops of grey, industrial Co-op City, then exited at 3W onto Pelham Parkway, making our way west through middle-class New York.

Old Italians were decorating already their small neat homes with lights enough to illuminate Times Square. Though it was nearly 70-degrees out, well, November was almost upon us, and that meant Christmas lights had to be lit.

We headed east to west, then turned south onto Arthur Avenue and into the heart of the Bronx's Little Italy--a bit of the borough that hasn't changed a whit since the 1950s. 

I pulled like a TV cop right into a space right in front of the deli I was ordering sandwiches from. After a lifetime of living in New York, paying my taxes and being a generally good human being, I have acquired perhaps that most valuable of New York assets: I have good parking karma. I can go virtually anywhere in the city and find a space within two minutes.

My wife hustled into Tino's and ordered some heroes for lunch and Whiskey and I walked around the block so she could attend her matutinal ablutions. In minutes, we were reunited and my wife stowed all order of mozzarella drenched sandwiches in the trunk of our small, well-parked automobile.

We then walked down the block to New York's best bread bakery, Madonia, and ordered everything they had that was topped with sesame seeds, about four loaves worth and some Italian cookies for my daughter who is heading west today to visit some friends in LA. God forbid she arrive empty-handed.

Back in the Simca, we headed home, south on Hughes Avenue, past East Tremont, skirting Crotona Park. Thirty years ago, this was ground zero for urban terror, with hundreds of burnt out buildings and thousands of drug addicts. This was the neighborhood eviscerated and ruined by Robert Moses and his Cross Bronx Expressway that destroyed homes and lives and a goodly portion of New York's most blighted borough. 

The Bronx lost 20% of its population from 1970 to 1980, going from about 1.4 million Bronxites to just over 1.1 million. Today, however, the sweat stained borough seems to be coming back. Its population is now 1.455 million, the highest in its history.

We made our way east on the Cross Bronx, America's filthiest highway, and veered onto the Sheridan, then the Bruckner onto the Triboro and on our way home.

It is a function of the residual fear still in some dark recessess of my limbic brain that I breathe a sigh of relief when I exit the Bronx, alive and back home in Manhattan. There was a time, not long ago, when a flat-tire could be a death sentence.

We made it home. Classical music was on the radio. A touch of old Vienna.

Like Whiskey, I needed a nap.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Notes from the Underground.


TO:      HTA 27900 (Humanoid Typing Apparatus 27900) and
PRT 1738288 (Pixel Rearrangement Technician 1738288)

FROM: CDF 1054223 (Client Directive Facilitator 1054223)

SUBJECT: NCCW (Non-Compliance of Client Will)

Yesterday we had a CDMM (Client Direction Mandate Meeting) and this morning I saw the adjustments you have made to the AUUD (Advertising Unit Under Discussion.)

It appears you have completely ignored the following comments, numbers:


More egregiously it seems that comments 44-81 have been completely dispensed with. Including, importantly, CDM (Client Direction Mandates) 62 and 63, to:

“Make the Call to Action Pop” and “Make the message meatier.”

Please see BPG4 (Best Practices Guide 4) page 1,926,636, paragraph 9, sentence 2, codicil 7b to address CDM 62. And page 2,399,712, paragraph 2, sentence 2, appendix ix, to comply with CDM 63.

Also see pages 3-109, in our ECEH (Employee Compliance Edict Handbook) which you signed as a term of your continued employment, and which outlines the consequences of abeyance of CDMs .

Thank you and have a nice day.


CDF 1054223

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Five Minutes with our CIO.

 Ad Aged: Thanks for spending time with me today. So I assume CIO stands for Chief Information Officer.

CIO: How quaint. That’s what CIO used to stand for.Today, it stands for Chief Inhuman Officer.

Ad Aged: So what is it that you do?

CIO: I plan to conceptualize the exigencies of Agency of tomorrow and the modalities of the agency model in the changing media pixelscape. I think about how we will thrive in the post-idea, post-concept, post-creative, post-comprehensible world, post-profitable world.

Ad Aged: Interesting. Tell me what you’re working on now.

CIO: We have worked to advance the notion of the “hot desk” across our network. Personal, assigned space limits communication and builds borders and boundaries between people who should be engaging in a collaborative interface construct.

Ad Aged: No one in your agency then has an assigned work area?

CIO: We’re pushing the breakdown of individual space. We see HTAs as completely interchangeable.

Ad Aged: HTA?

CIO: Humanoid Typing Apparatus. What we formerly called “creatives.”

We’ve found that treating our employees as HTAs eliminates the need for personal space, pay raises, bonuses, time off, even human interaction and compliments.

Ad Aged: Well, thank you for your time today.

CIO:  No need to thank me. As I've said so often, 
manners are so 20th Century.

Lost in Mexico.

We were playing down in Mexico City, against the Diablos Rojos, perennially the best team in the league by far. Meanwhile, this is before Geronimo Sisto joined us in September and settled us down, acting as another coach, a mentor and a guy who could slash a base-hit coming in cold off the bench, we were trending toward being just about the worst team in the league.

We weren’t in last place, but we were quickly getting there. Going into Mexico City to play the Diablos Rojos, we had lost nine out of our last 12, and were losing by lopsided tallies. 9-1. 11-3. And so on.

We played an afternoon double-bill against the Diablos. And even though we had Orestes “Tito” Puento on the hill in game one, and he would finish the year with 16 wins against only seven losses, that particular afternoon, the Diablos made him look like a rag arm, beating us 14-4.

Things went no better in the nightcap with Triste Tristan Ceballo chucking for us. Ceballo had an arm, there was no doubt about that. On any given day, he was just about the best pitcher you’ve ever seen. But his next game he could be just about the worst. Triste was about as consistent as an old clock. Some days he would run fast, some days slow, some days he wouldn’t run at all.

The thing about Ceballo was he had a major-league arm three days a month and everybody knew it. Coach after coach—even coaches from the big leagues would come down to try to “regularize” him—to steady him. But it was like trying to catch rain in a sieve.

Ceballo got beat badly in game two, with us losing 18-3.

We had just about had it after those two losses. Had it with the club, had it with baseball itself, and certainly had it with each other. To make matters worse we had a 15-hour bus ride slated after the game so we could play the Piratas de Campeche the next afternoon. 15-hours in a rickety non-air-conditioned bus through Mexico City, through the mountains, and through the desert to Campeche, with 25 guys who had just dropped two like we were a JV squad, with everyone of us having about the worst stretch of our lives.

We loaded onto the bus, some of the boys stretched and cursing over rows of seats in the back. Me, in my usual station, across the aisle and one row back from Hector who himself sat one row from the driver.

I sat in my seat and held a small flashlight so I could read a novel I had picked up. Something by Thomas Wolfe, and in English, about not being able to go home again. We headed out of the park parking lot and through the warren of city streets hoping to make it to Route 150D with a minimum of crap.

But when things go bad, they sometimes go bad completely. We were stuck in traffic that was aggressively not moving. I’ve been stuck in traffic in New York, Los Angeles, Cairo, Istanbul, Rome, Guangzhou and Sao Paolo. I can tell you with fervor, there’s nothing like a traffic jam in Mexico.

It seemed the whole country was on the road trying to get to another road. And the whole country was riding its horn at once. We moved about a yard every ten minutes.

After about an hour of this—we had traveled literally a block, and the mood of the bus, which had started dark was nearly pitch black. Little fights were breaking out in the back—we were all looking for someone or something to blame the losing on. And we were looking for something to take the idea that we were losers out of our heads—any sort of diversion we could find.

I was sticking my nose deeper inside Thomas Wolfe, ignoring the mayhem around me. It’s my way of coping; I’ve always done it, I still do. I found a passage I liked and drew an old 19-cent Bic out of my Seraperos wind-breaker and underscored it.

“There came to him an image of man’s whole life upon the earth. It seemed to him that all man’s life was like a tiny spurt of flame that blazed out briefly in an illimitable and terrifying darkness, and that all man’s grandeur, tragic dignity, his heroic glory, came from the brevity and smallness of this flame. He knew his life was little and would be extinguished, and that only darkness was immense and everlasting. And he knew that he would die with defiance on his lips, and that the shout of his denial would ring with the last pulsing of his heart into the maw of all-engulfing night.”

As I underscored those words Triste Ceballo walked to the front of the bus, staggered, if you have to know.

“Senor Hector,” he slurred, finding a place on the bench next to our manager. “Senor Hector. Necesito ir al bano.” I need to go to the bathroom.

Hector looked at Triste, then looked outside at the traffic. Then looked ahead at two miles or more of traffic. Then he took the bat he always had with him, a Pete Runnels Hellerich & Bradsby 32-ouncer that Hector used for batting practice. He balanced the bat straight-upward on two finger and then one, not answering Ceballo.

Finally, we had creeped alongside a bar that abutted the road we were on on our way to Route 150D.

“Go,” Hector said. Gordo Batista, our bus-driver and bullpen coach opened the door. Ceballo stumbled out and down the three steps to the dusty street.

As soon as Ceballo made his way to the bar, the traffic magically disappeared.

Batista turned to Hector. He looked at the door, as if to say ‘we are missing one boy.’

Hector banged twice his bat onto the grooved and rubberized linoleum floor of the bus.

“Vamonos,” was all he said. “Vamonos.”

We sped off into the dark.

Ceballo joined us two weeks later in Aguascalientes and pitched a two-hitter. And the next game he pitched against Torreon, also a two-hitter.

No harm. No foul.