Thursday, January 29, 2015
If you're like me, and you should thank your lucky stars you're not, you get tired of listening to me.
Hell, I reread this week's postings and I'm simply bored to death.
So I'm going to assume you need a respite. I know I do.
Today we're going very visual.
The map above shows Culver City. The astute among you will notice the oval like shape of the streets that comprise Carlson Park, my neighborhood, which at one time was a horse track, which later morphed into a racing car track with the arrival of the horseless carriages.
It all worked out quite well, except for the section I've circled. Somehow, like the idiots who planned our Metro Line without stops at LAX or Dodger stadium, someone forgot to pave Farragut Drive all the way through.
The passageway is simply an alley covered by a steel gauge fence.
Until recently this passageway was hardly noteworthy. But now it is literally and figuratively, quite noteworthy. Since one or several of the neighbors began hanging these very simple and iconic notes.
Here are but a few:
There were twenty more. And the attraction is gathering quite a bit of foot traffic.
You might be wondering do I have a favorite?
It came from the peanut gallery, someone who felt the need to add on to someone else's note about the collection.
I like a little sour with my sweet.
Thank you Satan.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
It's the part of the business I'll never get used to.
I'm not talking about the rejection. We all face rejection, copywriters and art directors perhaps more so than others.
I'm talking about the selection. More specifically, the selection of other ideas over and above the ones my partner and I put on the table.
I know I run the risk of appearing immodest and I'm going to be very thoughtful in the words I choose.
But, seriously, what the FUCK!
You sank 3/4 of a million dollars of precious production money, fought off countless focus groups and twisted the arm of the CMO, the CIO and the CEO, to run that?
They trained an elephant to paint pictures, maybe he's available to work on Phase 2?
You'd think by this middle to late stage of my career I'd be over all this. That, as a freelancer I could simply brush it all off, look at the deposits in my bank account and say, "at least the check cleared."
But the Tom Brady in me can't.
I'm simply too competitive.
Even at 44 I have a raging fire in my belly. Sometimes that fire migrates to my lower intestine. And sometimes it works its way up to my esophagus in the form of heartburn. The point is, the fire is still there and it's not going away until they plant me in the ground and I come back as a poison oak.
That doesn't mean I have to win every creative shootout. And hoot and holler in an obnoxious victory dance. And rub it in the face of my younger, hipper-than-thou colleagues who wanted to do something with hashtags and Will I Am.
Who am I kidding, that's exactly what it means.
I don't know how to make that go away.
Or if I should even try.
Maybe I'll just switch from dark roast coffee to something in the light-to medium range?
That's a start.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Last week I convinced my wife to go Alejo's Italian Restaurant on Lincoln Blvd.
We used to frequent the place quite often, as the bread is fresh baked and there's never a long wait to get a table. My two most important criteria for picking a restaurant in Los Angeles.
However, Alejo's has fallen out of favor recently, its frumpy dining room no longer as appetizing as it once was when my wife and I were escorting two screaming toddlers.
And yet, through the power of persuasion and some well-honed marital passive aggressiveness, I was able to convince my wife to go back to Alejo's. Their chopped salad is second to none. And this is what a successful marriage is all about. Compromise. Give and take.
She agrees to cheap Italian food.
I agree to give up a weekend to shop for new an inordinately-expensive living room furniture.
On the way to the restaurant, it was raining. Not newsworthy in any other part of the country, but here in Southern California I've seen more water coming out of my neighbor's hose, in order to wash his two white trash monster trucks, than I've seen fall from the sky.
Hugging the median of Jefferson Blvd., I slowed down because the woman in the Honda Civic in front of me appeared to be making a left turn.
But then, she wasn't.
At 50+ mph the car veered left and then, a split second later, veered right. She missed the road sign by a centimeter. And then, in the middle of fast moving traffic she slammed on the brakes and parked the car in the fast lane. The door swung open and the driver leapt from the car, hunched over and appeared to be returning her lunch to Mother Earth.
I stopped too. I had no other option.
And before I could look in my rearview mirror for oncoming traffic, my wife had jumped out of the car and ran to assist Mrs. Mario Andretti.
I've never needed hazard lights before and despite the superb Japanese ergonomic design on my old Lexus, could not locate my flashers. So I quickly skedaddled over to the right. And because there is no shoulder on Jefferson Blvd., I had to find the nearest street to turn off and park the car. About 1/4 mile away.
I ran through the uneven sidewalks, which is more like a lunar landscape thanks to the roots of Chinese Elm trees bursting through the pavement. And I caught a mouthful of dirty rainwater when a truck rolled by and tore through a puddle that would not be there 364 other days of the year.
When I reached the spot where my wife was, she wasn't.
And neither was the Honda Civic.
I yelled her name in the pouring rain.
She was gone.
I ran back to my car. Called her cell phone. And then I heard the ringing of her cell phone in her purse, which was still in the driver's seat of my car.
I drove back to the scene of the near accident and couldn't find her. Circled around again, in this stretch that had no streetlights, and still couldn't find her. Without her phone, she couldn't find me.
It was all playing out like a bad Jeff Bridges movie.
What if she's gone?
What if Vomiting Lady kidnaped her?
What if I never see my wife again?
Then I started thinking.
What picture should I upload for my new JDate profile?
What about Tinder?
Should I wear a baseball cap to conceal my baldness?
A thousand questions flooded my brain.
After circling round and round again, I finally spotted her near the parking lot of Home Depot. She was drenched. And crying. And very upset with the whole incident.
When we arrived at Alejo's my wife explained how the woman had a panic attack and was temporarily blinded. Thankfully, Debbie, my first responder, was there to talk her down from the ledge.
We ordered wine and beer and enjoyed the classic Alejo's chopped salad.
It'll probably be the last time I'll ever get to eat there again.
Monday, January 26, 2015
A week from today, the country will be talking about the Big Super Bowl.
And in my sad circle, friends and colleagues will be talking about the Big Super Bowl spots.
Not to crush anybody's spirit, but we'll be the only ones talking about the advertising come next Monday. Our collective naval-gazing has reached epic proportions. And make no mistake, I'm as guilty, if not guiltier, than most.
Of course some smart advertisers are not waiting a week. They'd like you to start forgetting about their marketing extravaganza right this second.
They've labored months, sacrificed weekends and played countless games of Scrabble or Candy Crush during production status meetings, why waste all that human capital on one showing during a football game everyone is too drunk to remember?
So, they've pre-released their spots.
And shot their wad before the big game.
It's better, they'll argue, because all the non-existent buzz they've deluded themselves into believing, can begin earlier. People will have an opportunity to view their content more often. And, and this is a big deal, they can squeeze another extra 100 likes on the youtube channel.
If only I had employed such dexterous logic during my dating days when "getting out to an early start" was not embraced with such enthusiasm.
Call me Old School, but this grizzled 44 year old isn't buying it.
The idea of the Super Bowl spot is to reach through the flat screen TV, stop people in the middle of their Tostitos snack-sharing community moments™, and crack open their heads with 60 seconds of razzle dazzle that will have fans saying:
"That was fucking great. Why can't they make movies as good as they make the commercials?"
For those of you too young to remember, that's the way it was when Apple's 1984 spot first aired.
Or Monster.com's "When I Grow Up".
Or Miller Lite's "Evil Beaver."
And even more recently, Dodge's "God Made a Farmer."
But now, in the service of social media and the chase for Likes and ReTweets, we've taken the element of surprise out of the hands of art directors and copywriters. It goes right in the dust bin. And sits next to long copy, wit, and intelligence; tools that are no longer useful in today's world of advertising.
If there's any buzz going on this week it's being generated by disgruntled creatives still upset with the redesign of the AgencySpy.com website or it's young media planners gathered round their supervisor's cubicle…
"Hit the refresh button, see if we reached 7500 views yet."
Thursday, January 22, 2015
One of the great things about growing up in advertising is the fact that I never grew up.
Never had to.
I go (go, being relative, as it often means coming downstairs and stepping into my den) to work wearing shorts, a T-shirt and flip flops. I often don't shave, sometimes don't shower. And still have the sleep patterns of a teenager.
It can safely be said that thirty years later, this 14 year old is still a 14 year old.
So it only follows that like many adolescents, I am still amused by ca-ca jokes. Here, we see leaders of the free world during their "Exit interviews with Mr. Brown."
If I had the wherewithal, I'd magnify these images, frame them and place them above the mantelpiece in the living room. Of course my wife might have something to say in the matter. She's a little picky about home decorations. And even home supplies.
She recently chewed me out for bringing home the wrong trash bags for the bucket underneath the sink. True story.
I'm not sure my choice of plastic was that bad. Or if it was the hormones. The Estrogen guessing game never seems to end.
In any case, I'll probably get chewed out again for bringing up the tale and going public with it.
It goes without saying, especially now, that this Scatsterpiece is not up above the fireplace.
And by the associative law of mathematics, neither is this one:
But never let it be said that I don't have an appreciation for fine art.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
I'm a whore.
Instead of pursuing a career writing movies, television or even books, I sold out, and offered my limited ability to string together words to the highest bidder.
I'm the bought-and-paid-for property of the Fortune 500.
A professional Call-To-Action Girl.
As such and as a freelancer for nearly a dozen years, I've learned to scoop up as many work assignments as the ink cartridges in my HP 6700 will allow.
Recently, while combing through my Junk mail file, I came across this from Seka Marianna:
I don't read French, but I'm smart enough to recognize words like "Project". And since I know there are ways to avoid paying taxes on overseas assignments, I responded to her inquiry with an inquiry of my own.
It turns out it was not the opportunity I had assumed. Seka, and how could I not respond to a woman who shares the name with one of the greatest porn stars of the modern era, was doing a little Internet phishing.
For a good laugh, I urge you to enlarge the picture and enjoy her "sales pitch."
It's clear that English is not her first language.
Or her second.
Or even her third.
My favorite line reads:
"What good still remain in the box that is already known cure by which the grass is worn through being constantly trampled?"
If I've said that once I've said that 1000 times.
It's right out of Howard Gossage Direct Response 101.
Turns out Seka, if that is her name or even if that is even her picture (see above), has inherited a large sum of money from her father and is looking to make real estate investments here in the United States.
Of the 330 million Americans she has wisely chosen me to assist her in that endeavor. I'm a longtime Toilets & Tenants Man.
As it turns out, 2015 has started off with a bang. And right now my plate is full.
Otherwise, Miss Seka Marianna, I would pursue you and your "real estate project" with vigor.
Your mangled English, your inability to spot the reverse scam, and your partially-correct assumption that middle-aged married men are financially susceptible when tempted by the allure of a younger, exotic women, would all be fodder for my next book.
A follow up to Tuesdays with Mantu, entitled:
Saturdays with Seka,
How I Duped the Duplex Queen of Senegal.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
I listen to feedback.
I take criticism.
And I act accordingly, responding with the appropriate adjustments and necessary tweaks to make things right.
I'm not talking about when I was a staff copywriter, I was a holy terror then.
No, I'm referring to how I go about the daily running of R17.
I know, for instance, that readers in general prefer I not talk about religion, international politics, and the machinations of the Islamic Fascist Movement. And so, I make a conscious effort not to dwell on those areas, though I could easily go off on that everyday until the next Ramadan.
I also know that readers enjoy it when I take the pointy pen in my hand and direct it at advertising. There's an insatiable bloodlust about our beloved industry. And I do my best to nurture that beast.
If only the good people at AgencySpy would as well.
Recently, they re-skinned their website in order to please their new corporate masters. They tore a page from the 2003 Interface Best Practices Playbook and fixed something that wasn't broken. The results are less than pleasing.
The new agencyspy.com, how can I put this diplomatically, sucks.
And the readers, never short on opinions or clever ways to voice their displeasure, let them know it. So much so that AgencySpy had to run TWO pieces explaining the incomprehensible design changes. And pleading with their core audience of scarf wearing art directors, beard bauble bearing copywriters, and obfuscating overpaid planners, not to leave the fold.
Good luck with that.
AgencySpy, the site we all hate to love has also become the site we love to hate. I suspect their dwindling readership will dwindle even more.
Maybe that will be good news for ad bloggers like myself. And George Tannenbaum's Adaged.
And Rotation and Balance.
And Ad Contrarian.
Grumpy old independent guys who are not afraid to take down the digital ninjas, the "storytellers", the Chief Engagement and Activation Officers, and the penny-pinching, picnic table architects who promise to usher in a new age of collaboration and optimal group ideation with their open space jackoffery.
Give me an office where I can speak freely with my doctor about my swollen testicles and swan-diving levels of testosterone, or give me my walking papers.
Well, you can take this to the bank: RoundSeveneteen will remain your untainted source of brutal honesty. We will not yield in our relentless exposition of holding-company corporate bullshit.
There will be no cloogy website redesign or any editorial lowering of the perpetual flame of discontent.
You know, unless Adweek comes sniffing around and offers me enough money so I don't end up in a dirty nursing home.
Then all bets are off.
Monday, January 19, 2015
Happy Martin Luther King Day.
Today's post will be intentionally light as I know half my audience is not at the office reading RoundSeventeen and actively putting off any meaningful work. That is if you can call advertising meaningful.
The other half of my audience is out shopping.
Celebrating the man who furthered the cause of racial equality in this country by snatching up throw pillows, now discounted up to 33%. Because, in the words of Dr. King, and I'm paraphrasing here, "we should not judge a man or woman by their color of their skin but by the symmetry and color coordination of their bedding linens."
Also, wasn't it less than a month ago that we were soothing our inner savage retail beasts for the glory of Christ the King?
Let me pivot 180 degrees and get to today's point, if one were to call it that.
Many people on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or even Brewster, a new social media outlet that contacted me this morning, are fond of declaring their undying love of their dogs.
And I get it. I love my dog Nellie.
The thought of my 12 year old Shepherd/Retriever/ mutt being on borrowed time can make me well up with tears.
But apart from the licking, kissing and tail wagging one normally expects, how many of you devoted dog folks have seen a manifestation of your pet's unconditional love?
Over Christmas vacation, my family and I went to New Orleans. We did not kennel Nellie as she has gotten too old for all that commotion. So knowing that she'd be more comfortable at home, we asked the neighbor's daughter to stop by feed Nellie, take her for walks and provide some companionship.
Even though she received the best care, as we can see through the magic of Dropcam, Nellie missed her Alpha dog -- me. By the way, I've never seen her do anything like this in real life.
So how much did she miss me? Well, let's go to the videotape.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
I am offended.
I'm offended that roughly 1/4 of the planet's population can take offense at a crappy cartoon but sees nothing wrong with a 41 year old man marrying a 9 year old girl.
I'm offended that people have abandoned rational thought, logic and self determination for fairy tales.
I'm offended that pork products, including spicy andouille sausage, baby back ribs and thick applewood center cut bacon have been deemed inedible.
I'm offended by the concept of presumptive conquest, that is, in the future the entire world will submit to the laws of the Caliphate and live by Sharia.
I'm offended by the twisted notion of honor and that any woman displaying sexual desire should be pelted to death with baseball-size rocks.
I'm offended that so many are committed to such a dogmatic belief system. A system so fragile that anyone threatening to leave, will leave as a corpse.
I'm offended by hijabs, burqas, and niqabs.
I'm offended by the term, kufar.
I'm offended that 75 years after the Holocaust there is a systemic, state-sanctioned persecution of homosexuals and vitriolic widespread hatred of Jews.
I'm offended that 750 million people, mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, are seen as 2nd class citizens. Or worse, property. When in reality they are our better half; reasoned, intelligent and not given to fantasy football, dick-wagging and countless hours playing Call of Duty.
I'm offended by the frothing at the mouth and the endless shouts of Allah Akbar. If God was Great human beings would not be killing other human beings for drawing cartoons.
I'm offended by a vengeful God who delights in the sight of spilt blood.
I'm offended by weak-kneed liberal progressives who have no problem calling out Christian intolerance, and rightly so, but go all limp when it comes to confronting the ugly ideologies coming from Mecca.
I'm offended by political correctness, Ben Affleck and naive co-existers.
And now I'm hungry, so I'm going to make some breakfast, read the newspaper and not run into the street with an automatic weapon.
See how that works?
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
I'm a full disclosure kind of guy.
I say things I probably shouldn't say.
I wear my true feelings like an overly-worn fleece.
And I don't lie very well.
All of which explain why I did not ascend very high on the corporate ladder.
In that spirit, I'm going tell you what I did last week. Something I hadn't done since faking my way through Freshmen English course in college.
I waked and baked.
My wife was at work.
My daughter was at school.
My plate was clean.
And I wanted to get going on the short stories I've been writing.
So, after my morning shower and some considerable thought, I ventured out to the garage, found my little one hit bowl, and fired up a tiny bit of medical marijuana that had been "prescribed" to me to "manage" the chronic pain from Plantar Fasciitis. Then I slipped on my Bose QC-15 noise canceling headphones and opened up a new Word document.
For the next two and a half hours I clicked and clacked away at the keyboard in a way I hadn't done in all of my 44 years. I rarely stopped for Facebook interruptions or to answer any emails and just kept plowing through the story.
In all, I knocked out 1600-1700 words, many of them misspelled.
The next day, I read what I had written in my self-induced haze. I don't want to sound immodest, but it wasn't bad.
The prose was more colorful.
The structure, a little less structured.
But, and this is the important part, the funny was even funnier.
You might not know it from the 1200+ entries in this blog, and particularly not from this one, but I hold myself to a certain standard. And the goods produced by last week's Wake 'N Bake met those standards. And scarily, exceeded them.
Does this mean I'm going to go full Reefer and open up a revolving credit line at my local dispensary, cleverly called Total Health Care?
No, it does not.
It only means…oh shit I had a really snappy ending…now I can't remember…Look at the time, it's 4:19….I'm outtahere.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
I know you're thinking, "Oh boy Rich is going to rip into advertising and skewer the entire industry with a scathing commentary about unequal wealth distribution, frozen salaries, unfair labor practices, bean counter management and the disintegration of our business at the hands of jargon-spewing, digital charlatans. He owes us that much after boring the hell out of us with last week's week long travelogue through Louisiana and Eastern Texas."
Sorry, that's not what today is about.
That fertile ground will be tilled at a later date. Maybe tomorrow.
Today, I am still boiling with anger and disgust over last week's Islamist attacks in Paris.
First off, I know there is a growing movement to disassociate the murders at the cartoonist office and at the Jewish supermarket from anything Islam. The apologists are quick to point out that the killing of innocent people has nothing to do with the religion.
That argument, of course, is uh, how shall I say this….Bullshit.
To the contrary, it has EVERYTHING to do with Islam. In the most exclusive sense of the word.
Or is it not apparent that Islam is not just a religion, it is a way of life, incorporated fully into culture, art and politics? There are madrassas throughout the Asian continent, posing as schools, that teach from one book and one book only -- The Holy Quran.
And the Quran and the Hadith are chock full of passages calling for the slaying of non-believers. I believe the term is Kuffar. And if I were so inclined I could cite many verses calling for the death of infidels. Many more calling for mine, as I am a member of the Tribe, a descendant of pigs and apes.
It was no mistake they were in a market selling Kosher goods. No mistake at all.
I understand the desire of moderate Muslims to distance themselves, semantically, from the acts of these butchers, but if you were to remove religion from the equation, these Neanderthals would have no reason to be taking up arms against non-believers. No reason to hunt down Jews, slay innocent cartoonists or decimate entire Nigerian villages.
All of which begs the question, "If true Islam is not about terrorizing people, establishing a Caliphate, repressing rights, killing homosexuals, subjugating women and imposing Sharia law onto the Ummah (the entire world, Muslim and non-Muslim alike), what exactly is Islam about?"
There's no need for an apology. I know the actions of a few, perhaps a few thousand, extremists do not represent the beliefs of the 1.6 billion.
But there is a need for a PR campaign. And a reformation. An effort that reshapes the current narrative. Something that demonstrates Muslims are tolerant, modern, willing and able to co-exist with the 5.4 billion people on the planet who do not share their faith and have no obligation to abide by it.
By the way, the effort to marginalize these acts of terror and consign them to a bunch of crazy lone wolves is not helped when, a day after the Saudi government officially went on record to condemn the killing of the cartoonists in Paris, they proceeded to publicly flog a liberal Muslim blogger who dared to express his less-than-agreeable opinion of the faith.
Watching the young and old, moderates I'll assume, rushing to the flesh-searing festivities does make me very optimistic.
Monday, January 12, 2015
Lately there have been a spate of articles bemoaning the diminishing productivity of the Open Office Plan.
Harvard Business Review offered a scholarly debunking of this recent real estate phenomena.
The lofty New Yorker did a hatchet job on these new 21st century white collar sweatshops.
And as recently as last week, the Washington Post featured a whiny article about the Office Open Plan, written by, get this, an advertising copywriter. I'm sure they tried to reach me but my landline was out of order.
Or I might have been busy writing banner ads for new Comfort Catheters™.
"When you need to drain toxic fluids from your disfunctioning excretionary organs, think comfort, think Comfort Catheters™."
Listen honey and your fancy-pants article in the Washington Post, if I may use that pejorative, you're a little late to the party. I took down that windmill years ago. And have peed on the ashes many times since.
Lack of privacy.
False promises of increased collaboration.
Blah, blah, blah.
That ground has been covered. And though I'm fond (read: lazy) of rehashing old material, today I want to go in a new direction.
Last week, after a little smiling and dialing, I booked two new assignments. One is short term and will require my immediate attention. The other is longer term and will require pacing.
Both, however are telecommuting jobs, meaning neither will require me to sit in an office, where I would no doubt be seated at a picnic table across from a gaggle of girls talking about the jello shots they did over the weekend. Or hipster dudes, fond of keffiyehs and colored baubles in their beard.
In other words, I will be working at my house, where the coffee is always hot and the toilet is never occupied. Or I'll be at my buddy John's house, which is no more than 400 yards from the Pacific Ocean.
I'm pretty sure it doesn't get any better than that.
If I had my druthers, and why shouldn't I, I'd work like this all the time.
Which got me thinking. Which got me to the online coupon generator. (see above)
So here's the deal. Book me for a job, spare me the wasted time in your ungodly open office plan and allow me to work where I work best, and I will offer you a 10% discount on my usual day rate.
You save money. I get to walk my dog and go for a swim in the middle of the day. And the work is, I like to think, better, clearer and more sellable to your demanding clients.
It's a win-win-win situation.
Call now because these deals won't last forever. Certain restrictions may apply. Subject to approval. Offer not good in Tennessee.
And, with apologies to my Nashville-born buddy Greg, really, what is?
Thursday, January 8, 2015
Sorry to indulge you in one more post about our Dixie trip but the truth is I need to refill my tank with venom before I can get back on the soapbox.
Also, by way of reminder, the two girls pictured above will both be in college this year so I will need to increase my flow of revenue.
In other words book me now and book me often.
After our less-than-enjoyable visit to a slave plantation, we found ourselves just 30 minutes from Thibodeax, LA, where a little more than a dozen years ago we shot one of the scenes for Home Movie.
Though my oldest was feeling under the weather (mononucleosis) we decided to swing by Zam's Swamp Tour for a visit.
Glad we did.
Zam's was run by Wild Bill, who sadly passed away last year. But his wife and his sister remembered me and the great time we had shooting the film. She wrangled Wild Bill's nephew, Zee Zee, in the black hat and wife beater, to give us the tour of the grounds.
This is way out in the bayou and they don't get many visitors out there, so ZZ gave us the royal treatment.
We saw the houseboat, now docked along the shore, where Wild Bill once lived full time.
And the girls got to hold snakes, chickens and baby alligators. At one point ZZ climbed into a penned off area, grabbed a huge stick and started poking a 14-footer that seemed less alligator and more dinosaur.
I'm sure his taunting of this massive reptile did not comply with OSHA regulations. Then again, I'm not sure the last OSHA regulator to visit Zams was not pushed into the feeding pit.
As we left, Wild Bill's wife asked if I had an extra copy of Home Movie. I didn't, but I went on Amazon.com to order them one. It was a small price to pay for such a great experience.
I hope the Fedex guy can get in and out of there without being eaten.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Yesterday, I promised a rant about the abhorrent condition of advertising.
Today, I'm writing about our visit to Vacherie, Louisiana, where we got to see what slave life was like at the Oak Alley Plantation.
You can draw your own parallels.
My wife noticed the brochures for the plantation, and twenty others just like it, in the lobby of the hotel. It was about an hour drive from New Orleans and we thought it would be a good idea to get out of the city and learn more about about our country's troubled past.
We had made several trips to the Manzanar Internment camps in the Eastern Sierras, where the wrongful imprisonment of Japanese citizens was given a certain amount of gravitas. And expected the same degree of honor at a slave farm, where, only 150 years earlier kidnapped and sold Africans were subjected to unspeakable horrors.
We were wrong.
What should be a somber memorial to inequality has been turned into a Disneyfied exploitation where guests are, according to the brochure, invited to "experience slavery."
Oh really, some douchebag from Dayton, Ohio flies in, sees the reconstructed sheds, feels the warm bayou sun and gazes out onto the massive sugar cane fields, then goes home having experienced slavery?
Think I'm exaggerating? Check out the last line in this description of the Big House, where Mr. and Mrs. Asshole lived.
I don't know what kind of funding they were getting from the state, but the fine folks at Oak Alley were big on hawking Mint Julips.
And what proper slave plantation be without its own Plantation Bar? A cavernous room serving all manner of spirits that is also available for birthday parties, weddings and anniversaries.
I'm sure given the opportunity, they'd be happy to host a Bar Mitzvah, but I like to think fellow members of the tribe would find a more appropriate setting.
I've never been to Auschwitz or Dachau, I'm guessing they don't have a catering facility.
Or an available chocolate waterfall.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Hate to bore you with another post about New Orleans, but the city is so colorful and so bursting with energy I couldn't resist.
If you're salivating for another good diatribe about advertising you'll just have to wait until tomorrow.
Pictured above, you'll see my wife (she's on the right, today is her birthday, she's 44 too) and a man who calls himself Windex Pete. Trust me when I say his association with cleaning products, hygiene or anything soapy ends there.
As you can see it's nighttime.
And if you have any sense of the French Quarter you'll recognize Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar in the background. Lafitte's is rumored to be the oldest bar in America.
I had spotted Windex Pete, it's hard to miss a man walking around town with a mudflap/washboard strapped to his torso, earlier in the day while taking a walking tour through the nearby Treme district. He was noticeably more sober in the AM. By nightfall, it was obvious Windex Pete had been three sheets to the wind.
At the time of this photo, I too had been well-lubricated, and caught Windex Pete's attention while he was riding his bike and working his street hustle. He had a bloody eye and his lower lip looked as if it had just been torn away from the frozen wall of a meat locker. Moreover, I don't know if he had showered since Hurricane Katrina.
In other words, he was a walking Red Flag to the typical scared white tourists who had journeyed to New Orleans to see glamorous Bourbon Street and hear "When the Saints Coming Marching In."
But Windex Pete, and how can you resist a man with a legendary nickname like that, was the Real Deal. So I gladly reached in my wallet to "buy a song."
The lighting sucks and Pete is an unusually black, black man, but it gets better as I angled around to get a better view.
Turns out Windex Pete also lived in Culver City for a spell and he regaled us with stories of time spent at the Fox Hills Mall and Dinah's near the 405. He also offered to take my wife and I to the seedier side of Rampart Ave., to the Oompa Loompa Room, where we could watch him sit in with the band, The Can't-Hardly-Playboys.
He said if we got lucky, the legendary Kermit Ruffins might be in the house.
Had I not three Sazeracs and a couple of beers in the tank, and had my daughters not been traveling with us, I might have taken him up on his offer. Who knows what kind of adventure might have transpired? Now I wish I had gone.
Instead, we combed the rest of the French Quarter and came across Tanya and Dorise. It's rumored that Tanya was the inspiration for the Annie character in Treme (a must see series, BTW) but I'll leave you to decide.
If after all this you don't feel the slightest inkling to visit the Crescent City, I suggest you pour yourself a good strong Sazerac.
Actually, it's my wife's birthday, make it two.
Monday, January 5, 2015
One of the pleasures of being the father of two college age daughters is the built-in excuse to visit colleges.
I don't know about you, but I love colleges and universities. Perhaps because stepping on campus allows me to step back in time. I fondly remember Syracuse University (a magnificent campus) as the first time in my life when I was not living under the overbearing demands of my father.
As such, the rules that applied to me at home did not apply to me some 250 miles north, under the snowy skies of upstate NY. There was excessive drinking, drugs, skirmishes with the campus police and the threat of academic expulsion.
But I'll save that for another post.
Over this recent Christmas break, we, the entire Siegel clan, decided it would be a good idea to head to Na' Orlans, to visit the campus of Loyola University, where my youngest had just recently been accepted. We could also visit Tulane (still pending) and swing by LSU (also still pending.)
From there we could traverse the swampy state of Louisiana and stop in at Austin to see the University of Texas, also still pending but apparently very high on my daughter's wish list. For no other reason than she likes their logo and the hue of their burnt orange colors.
The trip would also be a nice little vacation, as my wife and I both love Na' Orlans, which we decided has all the charm of a European city without the snootiness and the cigarette smoke.
It was a fine plan.
Until it wasn't.
The 3 &1/2 hour flight was smooth and uneventful. Then we reached the border of Louisiana, where a thick front of warm Gulf air met a cold Arctic blast dropping down from Canada -- in my other life I'm a Meteorologist.
This produced some monumental rainfall and thunderstorms. There was the normal rocking and swaying. And then there was the stowing of the snack carts, the flashing of the seat belt sign, and the stern warnings from the flight attendants.
Followed by the always calming voice of the pilot.
"Ladies and gentlemen, sorry for the rough ride. If you look out the window you'll see there's a bit of a storm. We're gonna swing around the north side of the city and approach from the east. We should be on the ground in 15 minutes. Sit back, enjoy the fireworks and relax."
For the next 15 minutes I, a devout atheist, prayed to the avionics God I don't believe in and went over all the post-humous logistics in my head.
There was the letter of instructions left on the shelf in the kitchen. The Trust and the Will had been recently updated. And that assignment for the Discovery Network, well, that'll just have to be written by some other hacky copywriter.
Thanks to the onboard flight tracking system on the television screen embedded in the headrest, I was able to monitor the progress towards our arrival (?) at Louis Armstrong International Airport.
10,000 feet above sea level, destination is 8 minutes away.
7,500 feet above sea level, destination is 5 minutes away.
5,000 feet above sea level, destination is 3 minutes away.
2,500 feet above sea level, destination is 2 minutes away.
500 feet above sea level, destination is 1 minute away.
I looked out the window, and through the numerous lightening strikes I could see the tops of the street lamps. Soon we would be safely ensconced at our hotel, where my wife and I could enjoy some meticulously-prepared Sazerac cocktails and laugh about this flying nightmare.
And then, just as I expected the wheels to touch down, they didn't. My body was slammed back into the seat with the force of 5G's and the roar of the engines filled the cabin as the plane rocketed up towards the swirling skies.
Landing aborted! We were literally 10 feet above sea level!
A microburst was lingering over the runway and Captain Hirschner decided it was best to go back around and try again.
Unfortunately, he didn't have enough fuel for another circle around the bayou.
So, while the plane climbed through the turbulence in a hair raising impromptu take off, the pilot announced we would be headed to Houston for a refueling so we could do it all over again.
I grabbed the throwaway fleece blanket and used it to towel off my very moist armpits. Then, from my one-row-away-from-the-restroom-seat at the back of the plane, I heard what you never want to hear from an experienced flight attendant…
"Wow, I've never seen it this bad before."