Friday, March 31, 2017

Boy meets girl. A modern Marketing story.

Don’t tell my wife, but the other night when I was supposedly working late, I instead went to a bar near my office to test out some au courant theories on “building relationships” through big data.

There was a tall brunette alone at the bar. Before I sidled over to chat her up, I had snuck a peek into her pocketbook and found out as much information about her as I could.

“Octavia,” I said to her by way of introduction.

She looked at me with a winsome set of cow eyes.

“Do I know you?”

“Well, no. But I know you. So I can do more for you. For instance, I know you have a business trip next week to Topeka. Let me recommend some restaurants.”

She looked pissed. But page 22 of the “Letch’s Handbook” tells me to ignore such expressions of disdain.

“How do you know that?”

“I took the liberty of going through your email and your search history. You do have quite the fantasy life, Octavia! And, by the way, I think it’s time for some new wiper blades, a baldness cure, and these pills I’m calling ‘the female Viagra.’”

“Listen,” she replied, “I’m going to call a cop.”

“No need for that. This is perfectly acceptable modern-marketing.”

In a trice, she had put on her coat and shoved a $20 across the bar top.

“Let me send you a Groupon,” I offered “to help you pay for that. Just give me some more personal information, and it’s yours.”

“Why don’t you get the fuck out of my face,” she replied.

But I had the perfect answer for that rebuke.

“No. That’s not good for me. I think instead, I’ll follow you around for the next few months. And hope that by following you, you’ll warm up to me.”

She left the bar in a huff.

And I went after her. A minute and a huff later.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Midnight in Manhattan.

It was another late night last night. But because the agency’s expense reimbursement system is as approximately as complicated and ornate as the Large Hadron Collider, I opted to take a shared ride service home rather than an Uber.

There was no one else in the car when I got in the truck. I had some old Nino Rota music on my headphones and really wasn’t in the mood to chatter, but the driver was the gregarious sort and ignored me trying to ignore him.

“You are working late,” he said to me.

“Not as late as you. I work early and late,” I said. “It’s the way of the world.”

“I’m 41,” he began heading west on 44th Street. “I’m turning 42 soon. I hate driving. I wish I could retire tomorrow.”

“You’re a young man. You have a lot of years ahead of you.”

“I am taking the test next Tuesday to be a corrections officer.”

“That’s a tough job,” I replied, talking through my hat.

“But after 20 years, a pension, or 22 years. And I’d rather watch the prisoners than be a prisoner.”

“Yeah, you’re better off on the outside,” I said, again talking through my hat. Though the way things are going at my office these days, I might be happier in some correctional farm. Stamping license plates my be easier than smashing boulders of jargon into copy.”

He gave me a befuddled look.

“This job, you get nothing. You sick, you don’t get paid. You need a day off, a vacation, you don’t get paid. No pension. No medical nothing. I am taking the Corrections Officer test,” he repeated. “The last two times I failed it.

"I am working for my wife," he said, gently patting the dashboard. "This truck is my wife. She coughs, I have to take care of her.  She costs me everything."

My mind was elsewhere. I tried to imagine what kind of questions were on the corrections test and quickly realized that all jobs have their arcane language and rules. If last year, they had devised a copywriter’s test, I’d probably fail twice, too.

"What is the average CTR on PM2 retargeted banners?" If someone asks me that, I'm looking for a rafter-beam, a long-rope and a chair to kick away. 

We had reached the crusted remains of snow in front of my apartment house.

He stuck out his mitt and we shook hands.

“Do not work too hard,” he warned me, as nearly everyone else does.

“Good luck on the test,” I said. And I parted with “I hope you pass and I never see you again.”

He laughed at that.

And off he drove toward midnight.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Three beers to the wind.

As usual, the bartender, as I tumbled into the Tempus Fugit last night  2:21, was leaning over the hardwood and reading a yellowed copy of "The New York Herald-Tribune" a paper that went belly-up in 1966.

As I settled into my favorite seat, one in from the end, he closed the broadsheet in half, and then folded it neatly in thirds like a wizened old newsie would in an old newsstand on a subway platform that might have sold a bag of salted peanuts for a nickel.

He shifted his center of 'gravitas' to the right, and in a sweeping motion filled for me a six-ounce juice glass with Pike's Ale (the ALE that won for YALE!)

Pike's, it must be said, turned state's evidence around the same time as the aforementioned fish-wrapping. But the amber is of such a surpassing perfection that the management of the Tempus Fugit bought the entirety of the brewery's remaining suds and they still have old wooden barrels of the liquid in some 'Cask of Amontillado' like cavern, a cavern that in all likelihood meanders its way underneath E. 91st Street where the Tempus Fugit sits, all the way up to Spanish Harlem, or even, Mott Haven for all I know.

There’s a notion that Manhattan, even in the times of the Lenni Lenape was always concrete, glass and steel. In truth, the island is little more than an alluvial impediment to the free roar of the mighty Atlantic which, in our climate-changing era—periodically subsumes those portions of our ancient rock that will, one day when we are all gone, when even the Tempus Fugit is gone, return to the sea not with a bang, like Frost said, but with a drip, drop and whimper.

I downed my Pike’s in one prodigious swallow and tapped my glass—my laconic way of indicating that I’d favor another.

The bartender complied, took a puff out of the corona that he keeps lit in the ones slot of his cash drawer, and then began the evening’s disquisition.

“It looks like,” he grumbled, “that those who control the means of production are having their way with you.”

“Yes. In the dialectic between capital and labor, labor is getting the short end of the stick.”

I nursed my second Pike’s like a newborn. He grabbed a worn white terry and wiped ever-shinier the worn rich mahogany of the bar-top.

"There are times," I continued "I'm not sure we get a stick at all. Or better, the only stick we see is the one they beat us over the head with."

"Fortunately," he said and he pulled me my third and final Pike's, "Fortunately, Pike's can serve as the opiate of the people."

I swilled down said opiate.

"To Pike's," I said as I put on my coat and shoved two twenties in his direction.

"To Pike's," he answered, knocking the wood of the bartop. "And on me."

I walked, no staggered, home as the morning was lighting up the far reach of Hell's Gate.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Edvard Munch, where are you?

I am more and more convinced that some vast portion of the marketing messages that assault us daily are written in some weird Potemkin village founded on meaninglessness.

In other words, we see pictures in these ads of creatures that look like humans, but who aren't human. They have inhuman smiles, work in inhumanly perfectly diverse groups, they have inhumanly inhuman outfits and are all inhumanly in-shape.

Also, and perhaps worse, is the inhuman way these ads are written.

I've just been besieged by this inhuman ad on my Facebook feed from Microsoft.

What does any of this mean? Can anyone explain what 'power innovation' means? Can anyone give me an example of a 'winning business culture'? Or, please, help me make sense of 'innovation is a team sport.' Does that mean I'll sweat and need a helmet?

The simple fact is, I can make no sense out of anything shown above. 

And I certainly don't want my 'ideation pipeline' widened, it's plenty wide enough, thank you very much.

None of this is English.

None of this is making any sense or any bit of difference.

It's marketing jargon that gets further jargonized each time it moves up another rung of the ladder.

In other word, Bullshit is the Lingua Franca of the day. No one understands what any of it means, but it sounds like everything else so it must be ok.

And on a lighter, more vomitous note:

Monday, March 27, 2017

A cold day in Spring.

We're about a week from the start of baseball season--when an old man's fancy turns to thoughts of sunshine and bleachers and a glass of beer and a frank or two, and the rattle of the subway on the way to the game, and the wonder in the eyes of children, and young fathers teaching their kids the vagaries of the ancient sport. 

We're about a week away from all that, yet still the weather in New York is more November than April. Fog and a cold mist shroud the city this morning and at times it seems that every street has construction going on, and every yellow cab--there are still a few thousand left despite the Uberization of the industry--is riding his horn.

One day many years ago, taking a cab home, I had the great good fortune of having a talkative driver who was of that vanishing Olde New York variety.

First he quizzed me, quizzed me about the fading flora and fauna of our fair city. Did I know about the big Howard Johnson's across from Bloomingdale's, or Chock Full o' Nuts, or Schrafft's, or Orange Julius, or Nedick's.

Then we hit the low 60s on First Avenue.

"This is where I grew up," he said to me. "This was when it was an Irish and Italian and old German neighborhood. Before the stewardesses and the singles moved in. Before the Upper East Side was the Upper East Side."

"There are vestiges," I said, more like an archeologist than a passenger.

"When I was a kid, we played ball right here in da street." He pointed up East 61st Street, a tired byway where old tenements are slowly giving way to antiseptic high-rises.

"We were playing ball with a 25-cent Spaldeen. Yunnerstan' Spaldeen?"

I nodded. A Spaldeen was the ubiquitous pink rubber ball of choice in New York. You could pick one up on the counter of countless candy stores and drug stores.

"We were playing and Phil Linz walked by with Joe Pepitone. Linz took the bat and ast if he could play."

Linz was a light hitting shortstop at the tail end of the Yankee's glory days. Here's the Wikipedia report that sums up Linz.

"On the team bus, after a Yankee loss to the Chicago White Sox, Linz was in the back playing a plaintive version of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on his harmonica. Yankee manager Yogi Berra thought the sad cowboy style mixed with a children's nursery rhyme was mocking the team. He told Linz to pipe down. Linz didn't hear and kept playing. Berra became infuriated and called back from the front of the bus, "If you don't knock that off, I'm going to come back there and kick your ass."

"Linz couldn't hear the words over the music, so he asked Mickey Mantle, "What he say?" Mantle responded, "He said to play it louder." This led the famous confrontation when Berra stormed to the back of the bus, slapped the harmonica out of Linz' hands, and the instrument hit Joe Pepitone's knee.

"This altercation convinced the Yankees' front office that Berra had lost control of the team and could not command respect from his players. As a result, the decision was made to fire Berra at the end of the season. And even though the Yankees eventually won the pennant, Berra was fired.

"Linz is probably remembered more for this comical confrontation than for anything he accomplished on the field."

The cabbie continued as we streamed with the lights up First Avenue, making each one. 

"I was pitching and Linz hit one sky high and a mile away. It lann-ed on the roof of a building alldaway downda block.

"I said to Linz, 'street rules sez yagottagetit.'

"Linz laughed and handed me a buck."

"Getcha own ball kid," and he and Pepi went on their way. 

"We lucked out 'cause we ran and got the Spaldeen and had a dollar for candy or whatever."

"So Linz wasn't a bum?" I asked as he pulled in front of my white brick.

"Naw, he wuzza bum, ok, but he wuz awright."

I gave him a big tip--enough for 20 Spaldeens, and went home to dream of soft summer breezes and baseball once again.