Wednesday, September 6, 2023


Most agencies don't express their reasons why as well as a good New York plumber.

My best friend Fred died almost two years ago. We'd been best friends practically since we met as 13-year-old 9th-graders at an elite private school at the conjunction of two interstates in Westchester County. That was back in 1971, when Richard Nixon was president, cities were being bombed by the Weathermen, and Vietnam was being bombed by thousands of tons of US munitions every day.

Fred and I stayed friends through college. We wound up on the same campus--Columbia University, Fred for Law School, and me getting a graduate degree in English Literature. That was back in the early 80s. We stayed friends until he died in 2021.

One of the things we used to talk about was underdogs. Particularly the underdogs in the old movies we loved watching. From Jimmy Cagney in "Angels With Dirty Faces," to Henry Fonda as Tom Joad in "The Grapes of Wrath," to Humphrey Bogart as a grizzled Sergeant in "Sahara," a really great propaganda movie.

Once, right after the movie "Brian's Song," came out, we went on a college recruiting trip. Fred pretended he was Billy Dee Williams' Gale Sayers and I pretended I was the ill-starred Brian Piccolo, played by James Caan.

The apotheosis, of course, of underdogs was always Jimmy Stewart. From "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," to "It's a Wonderful Life," Stewart was the voice and the conscience of the little guy. The little guy who bravely went up against the wealthy and powerful and against all odds somehow prevailed.

As we got older and achier and maybe tired out by the incessance of a world fully for sale, Fred and I began lamenting that it seemed no one rooted for underdogs anymore. We seemed to elect bullies (trump) admire bullies (former Yankee owner, George Steinbrenner) and even root for bullies.

More and more we accepted bullyism into our lives. The corrupt bullying from telcos and ISPs and government and banks and just about everything we need to live in a modern world. The concentration of capital has squeezed dry the wellspring of a competitive marketplace, and we're all paying for it every day--in high-prices, shoddy goods and shitty service.

When I started GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company, I understood that some of my competition for work would come from other creative people. More threatening, the stiffest competition came from the holding company system. They set the rules on wages, timing and deliverables. If you don't break that hold, you're fucked.

About three weeks ago I was closing in on a contract with a new, potentially large client.

I hate negotiating. Who doesn't?

And this guy was sharp-elbowed.

I also hate losing.

Worst of all, I hate selling myself short.

So, before speaking to my potential client, I took a walk along Park Avenue, perhaps the ritziest residential street in the world, with more billionaires per square foot than anywhere outside of Dubai.

I walked as I do, with a pad and pencil. I looked for panel trucks owned by plumbing companies and I wrote down their names. I figured only the top-plumbers work in those $25,000,000 Park Avenue apartments. 

When I got home I called those plumbers and worked out their hourly rate. I vigged it up to a day-rate and that's what I asked for.

My money conversation went like this.

CLIENT:        What's your day-rate.


CLIENT:        That's a lot.

GEORGE:    It's less than a good New York plumber makes.


CLIENT:        OK.

It's good to be an underdog.

It's better to outsmart overdogs.

Practically a lead-pipe cinch.

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