Saturday, November 14, 2009

Do It For Your Prostate

I don't pretend to be someone who gets behind causes. I hate anything-a-thons. And I hate asking people for money. Sort of rules me out of most fund-raising endeavors.

But it's November. And that means it's Movember. What's Movember, you ask.

Basically, men all over the world get to indulge their weird displays of virility all in the name of prostate and testicular cancer. Here here!

Truth told, raising money for prostate cancer was never my intention. I was just sick and I didn't shave
for a week. And I just happened to carve out this slick little number on November 1.

Not just a mustache, but a mustache with the flavor saver (a term I had never heard before and which everyone tells me has perverse connotations - if I've offended, I apologize but I just thought it was a good expression for all the flavors that go in your mouth and get caught in that thing on the way in). The whole reason for the flavor saver in the first place was to distinguish me, a poseur hipster, from the guy without the flavor saver who rapes young boys.

The wife hasn't been very impressed with my sweet new look. She says she's not sure if she's attracted to me with this thing. I'm not sure she was all that attracted to me without it, so I figure, no loss there. I probably would have shaved it by now, but it is Movember, and if I hold out til Thanksgiving, I can fuck up some serious family photos. So I'm keeping it.

I am by no means asking you to donate money. I'm not even sure I'm going to. But I might. And if you felt like you might want to support these nastly little pubes growing all over my upper lip, or
just the fate of balls everywhere, please do. You can make a contribution on my mustache's behalf here:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Weekend Downtown Users borrowed my cell phone

I don’t spend a lot of time in downtown on weekends. It’s a very different place than it is on weekdays.

Weekday downtown users (WDDUs) stream in to the parking garages and tall glass buildings five mornings a week, only to return to their quiet little neighborhoods in the late afternoons and on weekends. It’s organized, rhythmic for the most part, well-kempt.

On weekends, my pleasant little city becomes Attack of the Bodysnatchers, but the only bodies being snatched are covered in scabs and tattoos. The place is fucking gross. I was mostly amazed that they keep this alternate slice of Portlandia so well hidden from us WDDUs.

Where do all these Weekend Downtown Users (WEDU) go? I should have never asked that question – they’re obviously looting the WDDUs neighborhoods on weekdays. Or maybe once downtown fills up with all us WDDUs, the WEDUs just blend in. Yeah, ok. We’ll go with that.

So I rode into downtown today (Sunday) to meet a friend and check out a movie. The WEDUs were in full junkie-fucking effect. I nearly ran over a few on my bike.

As we walked out of the theater after the show, my friend and I talking about the flick, we were asked by a tweaked out twenty-something couple (mind you, the worst looking twenties you’ve ever seen) if they could borrow a cell phone. They added some sob story about trying to get a ride back to Texas.

I had about a split second for the following thought - Don’t be “The Man.” Lend em the phone. Aww, man, I don’t want them touching my phone. That shit is personal. I understand if you’re a young lost kid, or an elderly person, or someone in real trouble that they didn’t create themselves. But not this bullshit... Don’t be “The Man.”

So I handed over the phone. One of their scabby claws grabbed it. The guy’s actually. He dialed a number with his back to me, hung up and dialed another.

I tried to continue a natural conversation with my friend about the movie we just saw, but it was useless. I was way too busy stressing over the Hep D he was leaving on my phone, which I will now never use again.

I know I shouldn't be surprised by all of this. It happens in major metropolitan areas all across the country - the seedy side exposed once the worker bees evacuate (a phenomenon, by the way, worthy of a documentary). I just thought my town was different.

So if you’re reading this, and you ooze something infected anywhere on your body that’s visible, let’s just play our respective roles.
You be the disgusting junkie messing up my nice little city. And I’ll be “The Man.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Inner-Hippie

Back in my college days, I did the whole hippie thing. Not very original, I know. Especially going to college in Madison, Wisconsin. That’s like saying, I went to Vassar and did the lesbian thing. Or I went to Florida State and did the date rape thing. Totally cliché.

Perhaps even more embarrassing, there was no altruistic motive behind my peace, love and happiness. I wasn't saving baby seals or feeding the world. It was just me, a pair of Birkenstocks, and an unruly Jew-fro experimenting with recreational drugs, while driving an old VW all over the country to see jam bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish.

The natural progression for this
post-college wannabe was to head west. Portland Oregon to be exact. But what happened next was completely unexpected. No sooner had I unpacked my Guatemalan backpack, than I shed the whole youthful facade, starting with my hair, shaved down to a quarter of an inch. And with my new cop-like buzz cut, I quickly adopted an uptight behavioral pattern, which completely belied my previous "don't harsh on my mellow" vibe.

At the time, I was neither proud, nor ashamed of my former identity. I saw the humor in my fickle transformation, but at the same time, I had no real interest in returning to that free-spirit lifestyle. That was the old me and the new me had a new rep to establish.

Years passed and I pretty much settled into the persona I formed in those early Portland days. I moved around a bit for my career, met a nice girl, got married and had a baby. We moved back to Portland, bought a nice house, in a nice neighborhood and own a nice car. I went from “hippie” to “yuppie," carrying on the great American cliché.

But this summer marked 17 years since my last brush with the patchouli crowd, and I was finally ready to relive a little slice of my dirty past. Phish announced they were playing the Gorge Amphitheater, just a scant 4.5 hour road trip away, and it seemed I had found my venue. With a couple of hall-passes from the wives, an old friend and I set out on our own 24-hour summer tour.

We arrived at the campground about four hours before show time and all the old memories came wafting in through the car windows
. Kind veggie burritos. Errant Frisbees. And yes, an obscene amount of freshly burned cannabis. The nostalgia felt warm and refreshing but through the dense fog of dried up desert dust, cigarette smoke and body odor, I could see that this place was filthy. Garbage strewn about. Aimless slobs casually invading your space. And a line-up of gas-guzzling, luxury RVs as far as the eye could see.

These weren’t the merry pranksters or the Abbie Hoffmans I aspired to all those years ago. These weren’t the young and the free. These people looked old and rough. They needed more than a shower. They needed a blood transfusion.

My traveling companion reminded me that back in the day there were plenty of cracked out punks, who would rip off their own bro’ for another nitrous balloon. The shows never were about hippies, he said. Just a bunch of bums who want to dress up in funny outfits and take drugs. He was absolutely right. I was disillusioned.

The music started and I was able to relax a bit, actually enjoying what I had come all this way to see in the first place. And then it occurred to me, as my head involuntarily bobbed up and down to newer songs I never heard before - I had
inadvertently become the hippie I mistook myself for all those years prior. Only with less hair, a button down shirt and a bad attitude. Here's how I figure it:
  1. I ride my bike to work everyday, part of our whole one-car family plan to keep the fuel consumption low.
  2. We are a staunchly organic household (mostly due to the wife and her chemical objections).
  3. Our summer veggies come straight out of the backyard compost garden.
  4. My kid starts summer camp today at a farm called Mother Earth, where she’ll be stomping barefoot on locally grown berries to make jelly.
I’m not complaining. I just thought I was going through a phase.

(P.S. Sorry to leave you with the maggot post all this time - I really had nothing of consequence to say).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Internet-1, My Garbage Can-0

I had never seen a maggot in real life. Until two nights ago, when I opened the outside garbage can only to find hundreds of the little buggers crawling all over my shit. Truly, the creepiest, non-threatening things put on this earth.

My father always used the expression, "that (something he had just scarfed down) could gag a maggot," the sound of which always caused me to gag slightly, myself, but made me think a lot about what a maggot eats.

And there was that scene in Poltergeist, where the dude reaches for the piece of steak and maggots scurry out, which scared the crap out of me. So I went searching for the clip online. I didn't find it. Instead, I found something far more horrible. In fact, what I saw in my trash can, were just adorable, little, organic, prepubescent flies, by comparison.

I urge you not to watch this.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Chemicals May Just Kill You - A Love Story (Part 2)

Now that the character of my wife has been firmly established, we'll just pick up where we left off, only to say again, the woman has some intense sensitivities to the world in which we live.

One sensitivity that's been rearing it ugly rear lately, is her aversion to the WIFI waves that are passing around us, specifically when we use or get close to the laptop. Here's the first article that comes up in google on the matter.

This rules out all sharing of funny youtube videos, or picking out new house furnishings online. There will be no quick looking up of movie times. And if you want to stream in some music, you best be doing that on the desktop computer upstairs - the same desktop that gives off the signal my laptop receives. Shhh, don't tell her.

Last night we were discussing ways to save money and the topic of cancelling cable came up. I was all for it. We could get Apple TV (can anyone recommend?), kaibosh cable and netflix, and only buy the shows and movies we want to watch.
This would force us to choose our television viewing wisely, not just grow numb to the nightly channel surf, hoping tonight we land on something, anything other than House Hunters International and the 11 pm Chelsea Lately or Jon Stewart debate. We might even start reading and listening to music more. We were giddy with the possibilities. So much so, that my wife leaned over my shoulder to read about Apple TV on the evil laptop.

And then she saw it. Big, bold lettering. "Wireless to the Extreme."

The waves! The waves would be all around us everytime we watched tv.

Bye, bye Apple TV. The moment was fleeting but the love was real.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Suck one, Twitter

In past posts, I've bemoaned the popularity of twitter. Like here, here and here.

I've since tried to open my mind to the social network and learn to use it for the good of my career. I've tried to find the insightful and the relevant among all those shameless tweets.

And then this showed up in my email.

I'd like to thank my coworker for passing this along, and reminding me why I was right all along.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Coffee Shop Saga, Part 5

If you've been paying any attention at all, you'd know that I'm forever searching for a proper coffee shop.

Somewhere in between my house and my office, where I can sit down with a decent Americano and write.

Somewhere that won't tack on an extra dime to my $2 drink, forcing me to bust up another bill, or worse yet, go into debit.

Somewhere without an owner that calls attention to my doody time whenever I ask for the bathroom key. Actually, fuck that. Somewhere that doesn't require a bathroom key at all.

(Ed. Note: Playing attached video provides recommended soundtrack for the remainder of this post and is referenced below - the music is incredible but watching people dance to it, not so incredible).

I thought the last place was it. And while I haven't completely given up on them, they are a block and a half off my direct route to work and they tack on the extra dime to my Americano. I've also grown increasingly unhappy with my co-clientelle there. But without a viable substitute, my move was all talk.

Last night, some friends in the neighborhood told me about Cartola Coffeehouse on NE 7th. The same block as the neighborhood dry cleaners that no one actually uses and right next door to ghetto quickie mart, where 40-oz bottles of Old English outsell all other items combined, 10-1. The same block where my wife and I witnessed two old friends greet each other with a hug and the motto "once a 7th street gang member, always a 7th street gang member."

I couldn't imagine it. Trendy, bourgeois coffeeshop? There? Nah-ah.

And here I am. Sitting on a plush, cushioned bench, working on a white marble-topped table, under cool, low lighting, listening to my newly heavily rotated, Menahan Street Band on the cafe speakers and drinking a $2 Americano, made with Stumptown coffee. And I haven't
strayed one foot off of my direct route to work.

If I had any complaint at all, it would be that the place is a bit intimate for me to sit down and work comfortably. But the Americano is only $2.

For now, this will do.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Panic at the Dentist's Office

I pried my sweaty body off the pleather recliner and bolted upright. The hygienist stood behind me making copious notes in my permanent file.

"Do you really have to write all that down?," I asked pathetically, the color just now returning to my face. "I'm fine, now. Seriously. Let's just do the cleaning."

"Oh, this? It's nothing," she told me with that bullshit cheeriness that all dental
hygienists have mastered. "I'll be done in just a second, here."

What she was writing, in that permanent file of mine, was how I had just completely lost my marbles, right there in her chair. Not because I'm scared of dental work, mind you. I've had root canals and gum grafts and really had no problem with it. I just lost my fucking shit. And while she chalked it up to a possible heart condition, which really isn't any better on my permanent record if I were to ever apply for new insurance policies, the truth is, I just lost my fucking shit.

It all began with a set of lost keys, which caused me to run late for my appointment.

Then came my ride in. The route to my dentist's office combined with the ornery behavior of that morning's motorists, made for an absolutely harrowing commute. I spent the last few minutes before locking up the bike, reflecting on how close I came to becoming road kill.

That had me all freaked out, and then I began to worry about my blood pressure. A few weeks ago, I saw a new doctor who told me my blood pressure was a little high. That makes perfect sense given my make-up, but remarkably, I typically test low. I knew I was going to the dentist soon, and I know they test my blood pressure before every cleaning, so I figured I'd just check in again, once I got there. But now
I was heading into this test with a heart rate that could jump-start a Boeing 727.

As I entered the office, I asked the receptionist for a glass of water. It was cold. Delicious. I was about to blow a blood vessel.

They led me back to my room, sat me down in the reclining pleather chair and took my arm.

"So, I just had a pretty gnarly bike ride in and I'm afraid my blood pressure is gonna be high."

"Oh, you'll be fine," she said all bullshitty as she slid the sleeve over my bicep. "Let's just see here."

Pwsshh, pwsshh, pwsshh.

"Oh my! You are high."

My heart hammered away at the inside of my chest. "Like how high?" I stuttered.

"Oh, about twice as high as last time. It's fine." All bullshitty. "We'll test it again in a few minutes. What'd you eat last night? Or for breakfast this morning? Something salty?"

"I eat super healthy," I pleaded with this woman, hoping she would give me a better prognosis. "My wife's a food nazi. We eat kale and whole grains and shit. And everything's organic." But then I started thinking, if I am having a heart attack, this may be the last woman I speak to before I'm unconscious, so I better 'fess up, now.

"I love cheese!" I blurted out, full of shame. "It's my only weakness. "I love cheese and I like butter, too, but I rarely indulge in butter." My dental
hygienist nodded. "What's high blood pressure mean exactly, anyway?," I wimpered.

hygienist, a former emergency medical technician, felt it her job to tell me all the gory details about what happens to the human blood stream when all systems are not go. I would share them here, but that was the part where everything went out of focus.

The color had completely left my skin.
I could tell from the tip of my now grey nose. Sweat poured in a steady stream down either side of my face and into my ears. And my heart was fucking killing me. I kind of thought I was about to pass out, but my mind raced to think of anything else I might want to tell my dental hygienist before I went into in a coma.

I jumped out of the pleather dentist chair and moved to a more upright seat facing the
hygienist. "Could I get another cup of water?" Wait no! She had just told me that the water in your body puts pressure on the outside of your veins and capillaries making it hard for them to push the blood stream along.

The bullshitty
hygienist finally went and did me a solid. She got a wet towel for me to cool myself off. And that was all I needed. She tested my blood pressure again. I was making my way down. Things were sharpening up. I had a sip of water - just a sip - and gathered my composure that had spewed across the room.

"Thanks for the towel. I think I just had a bit of a panic attack. You started telling me all about blood vessels and I just got a little wooz-"

"Well, it's important to know those things," she barked back.

"Ok, ok. Whatever. Can we just clean my teeth, now."

"Sure," she said. "I just need to make a little note."

In that cheery, bullshitty voice.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I've got followers

Dear Alyssa (Alyssa46cn) and DoloresBarrera (Barrera667) -

Thanks for deciding to follow me on twitter. I'm flattered by the sudden attention. And though I never post anything for you to actually follow, I get the sense you're interested in more than just my tweets.

Apparently, Dolores "needs an older man who knows how to fuck (her) right." Now I don't know you Dolores, so I'm not sure what makes you think I'm older than you. From your profile picture, I would guess, that yes, I am a bit older. However, not knowing you makes it difficult to know if I could satisfy your needs.

And Alyssa just wants to share "pics from last weekend" - pics that are strangely blocked by my office firewall for nudity and adult content. Awwww...

I'm just shocked you both chose me. I mean, you're both very attractive and obviously, very friendly. But as tech-savvy as you both are, what with your web cams and your tiny urls, there must be all sorts of users out there who can stimulate your need for tweets. And you picked me. Lucky lucky me.

So I'll try to keep things interesting for you guys, now that I have followers and all. And just to be a good sport, I'll follow you, too. I totally need to see some pics from that party, Alyssa.

Support Twitter Spam

Monday, June 22, 2009


Not exactly sure what's happened here, but that perfect coffee shop I found about six months ago for my pre-workday, "Lefty time," ... ate a big turd.

I admit, I haven't been as ardent a patron for the last month or so (times is tough). But I never imagined that my short departure would result in such a monumental breakdown.

I'm currently writing to you from that once-sweet little NoPo coffee shop with the perfect not-too-hipster-but-still-intriguing clientele and a mix of tunes that never fail to please, now overrun with senior citizens cracking sudoku puzzles in their morning papers to the easy-listening strains of Paul Simon's Graceland. And let me just say, you have never hated an album that you once foolishly enjoyed, as much as I do right now.

Anyone know a decent coffee shop in inner-Portland?

(Not quite sure why there are english subtitles translating english lyrics, but thank god for the sub-titled "ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh." Would've been totally lost without them).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Written off as a crank

The AP story about my Facebook etiquette post broke today. I'm gonna be huge in Billings, Montana.

Once again, folks, you read
it here first.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Go Winnipeg!

I just got back from visiting my in-laws in Winnipeg. This statement is usually met with, "Why would anyone live in Winnipeg?" or more commonly "Ummm, where's Winnipeg?" (Due north of Fargo, North Dakota in the Canadian province of Manitoba).

(Ed. Note - Even if you don't watch this four-minute video, please at least hit play to hear this post's accompanying soundtrack).

Despite an intolerable climate and bleak landscape, Winnipeg is strangely compelling. Here's why:

1. I was there this year during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. I expected nothing short of a Super Bowl party on New years Eve while the Molsons runneth over to celebrate this blessed event. Instead, I went to Game 6 of the American Hockey League's (AHL) Calder Cup, in which, the hometown Manitoba Moose lost 4-1 to perennial champs, the Hershey Bears (that's Hershey, Pennsylvania). The sold out crowd at the MTS Centre came out to support their second rate team while hockey's biggest show was taking place at that same exact time on television screens everywhere. Everywhere but the MTS Centre. So while the live, albeit mediocre hockey game took place right before our eyes, a crowd of 15,003
, mostly clad in Jets jerseys (the NHL franchise that left Winnipeg in 1996 to become the Phoenix coyotes), transfixed their collective gaze on handheld communication devices, awaiting updates from Joe Louis arena.

Many notable talents have come out of Winnipeg. Most notably Neil Young. Which alone, is pretty notable. The town also gave birth to the Guess Who, which later spawned, BTO (Bachman Turner Overdrive), First-Blood-shirt-shirking-actress, Anna Paquin, art-house filmmaker, Guy Madden, Lilith Fair-ian singer/songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk, Let's Make a Deal host, Monty Hall, and the Disney character's namesake, Winnie the Pooh.

3. There's a Canadian
television show called "Less Than Kind" about a dysfunctional Jewish family in Winnipeg that operates a driving school. It's basically the Canadian version of "Arrested Development." But the city plays an integral role in the story. The story was written by the uncle of my wife's childhood friend, who taught everyone how to drive and smoke a cigarette at the same time. Coincidentally, we spent the weekend hanging out with my in-law's neighbor, who also happens to star in this show, filmed on location. So we watched. It was great. Really, it was.

4. I learned this weekend, that "According to Environment Canada, Winnipeg is the coldest city in the world with a population of over 600,000." IN THE WORLD!! The city's record low reached -57 degrees. Fahrenheit.

5. Winnipeg is the Slurpee capitol of the word, as my wife often reminds me. It's also the Bingo capitol of Canada, which my wife does not know. I've enjoyed both on past visits.

So what am I getting at with all this useless
Winnipeg trivia, and why should you care?

It's nice to see people take so much pride in a town that could easily be written off.

It's nice to know the local celebrities, and even have a connection to them.

It's a nice place to live. But I wouldn't want to visit.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Chemicals May Just Kill You - A Love Story

Last Thursday, around 4 pm, at my desk, the phone rings.


My wife: (voice tinged with panic) “We’ve got a problem.”

I ask her what’s wrong (my own voice trembling a bit, now).

My wife: (More panic – can’t get words out fast enough) Mike and Melanie (our neighbors three doors down - names changed) are blow torching the paint off their house.

I know these calls. They happen often. Not blow torches specifically. But some other panic-strewn response to chemical exposure. And yet, after nine blissful years of this, I still have no idea how to handle it.

My wife has an extremely rare disorder. So rare that no doctor has yet to diagnose it properly. We’ve heard everything from fibromyalgia to your common clinical anxiety case. The best we can ascertain is that it’s something akin to what’s known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).

In lay terms, the woman runs screaming at the sight of a Sharpee.

She smells things you and I would never smell. Paint smells. Glue smells. Gas smells. Plastic smells. Cleaning supply smells. If it doesn’t come from the earth, my wife doesn’t like the way it smells.

The way she describes it, these smells cause her throat and tongue to swell up and she feels shooting pains in her chest.

You could say one of two things in response.
1. That’s awful, god, I feel horrible for her.
2. That woman is bat shit crazy. Run, man. Run.

I’ll admit, the first time she complained of the duct tape in the house bothering her and asked me to take it out to the garage, I thought she was out of her goddamned mind. I resisted the urge to just say “no” – actually force her to consume all that rich, silvery plastic and adhesive to prove there’s nothing wrong with it.

But I went the other route. I decided to stick it out for the woman I love. Through thick and thin as they say. And it’s been pretty thin.

We’ve considered moving three separate times because of smells in our house, including our current one.

We’ve purchased new furniture that needed to “off-gas” at a friend’s house for a few months before we could take it in. Because of the smells.

We leave restaurants and friends houses that have been painted or remodeled in previous months. Because of the smells.

Since having a kid, the severity of this disorder increased monumentally. Part of that was chalked up to weird hormonal shit that happens during pregnancy. The other part is absolutely her fierce lioness-like protection of our daughter from all that is evil in the world (sic. chemicals).

So there’s your background. I'd like to break up this ridiculously long post with a glimpse into my life - this awesome trailer for the movie Safe.

Based on this trailer, the subject matter and the talent, I should have loved this movie. But it sucked.

So back to that phone call last week from my wife about the blow torches. My only viable response at that point was, "Are you sure?"

My wife: (More panic. More rushed speech) I just drove by. There are guys in haz-mat suits doing the work! We’re heading to Sellwood (the neighborhood farthest from our home, while still in Portland, where friends will provide a safe house).

Blow torching paint? Haz mat suits? What?

I actually knew exactly what. We once looked at a house that had been stripped down to the foundation and rebuilt with all natural materials – even the soil was replaced around the home – because their painters had used blow torches to remove old paint from their home and it was lead-based paint. Subsequently, at least one of their three kids, maybe two, has developed autism, thought to be caused by the lead paint that was burned off. Meanwhile, it was happening three doors down from my house.

Needless to say, we really did have a problem.

I started by trying to call the home owners, people we really like, and ask them if we could stop the blow torching and find another way. No answer.

Next the CDC. Gone for the day. The DEQ. Nothing.


If I didn’t get those blow torches turned off, my wife would never go back to that house. I had no choice. I called the cops. I pleaded with them to send a car over and try to stop the madness while I biked home to meet them.

They passed me off to the fire department. The fire department said they would send a truck, but I could tell from her voice, the dispatcher clearly thought I was out of my mind.

I hopped on my bike and raced home, fully prepared to throw myself in front of the blow torches, ala Mel Gibson taking a bullet for Danny Glover, Lethal Weapon style. The wind was blowing south. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK! We live south of
Mike and Melanie.

When I got there, the blow torches were thankfully off. I got Mike on the phone who was thankfully open to idea of not blowtorching anymore (he later decided to continue). Even more thankfully, he told me that they had the boards on their home stripped down to the wood and repainted 15 years ago, which would suggest there wasn’t any lead in the paint – or at least not much.

And the fire truck never showed up. Thankfully.

My wife and kid stayed at the safe house one more night while the last of the blow torching of the lead-free paint took place. I stood there watching the process from a safe distance, and I couldn’t help but look at these guys, still in their haz-mat suits, blow torching latex (still a chemical) off of a house, with kids,
right across the street, riding their bikes not wearing haz-mat suits, and thought to myself "why is this all perfectly normal?"

Maybe my wife is right. Beware of the chemicals.

***UPDATE*** I just got a call from an environmental health specialist with the State of Oregon, Dept. of Human Services, who tells me that according to the EPA, it is in fact illegal to blow torch paint off a house in Oregon. I provided the name of the outfit responsible for the blow torching, Ed Bell & Sons, and apparently, there is a mounting case against them. Our story was added to the mounting.

(Ed. note: I've wanted to write all this about my wife's disorder each time another one of these ridiculous situations come up. I worried about how I would capture it all without throwing my dear sweet wife under the proverbial bus. But with fodder this good, my wife knew she couldn't deny me the pleasure of sharing, and if you have any information about this disorder, we're always looking for a new perspective. All subsequent posts about our chemical run-ins will be much shorter, with links to this post serving as the subtext).

Carry on.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Not Anonymous

Yes friends, my ship has come in.

The words of this otherwise anonymous blogger graced the hallowed pantheon of the "I, Anonymous" column today.

I just picked up a copy of this week's Portland Mercury, still hot off 'em, and turned immediately to the back page. Much to my delight, there I found last week's rant about the paper towel chucker in the bathroom at work. They changed the title and a few words. And the illustration (right) is pathetic, but that's ok. I've finally made it.

Just remember - you heard it here, first.

Carry on.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

All the ads fit to print

With the daily edition of your local fishwrap getting thinner, fluffier or just stopping the presses once and for all, it's not exactly news to say, content is suffering.

I don't pretend to be one of these newspaper purists who believes we must protect the printed edition of every major periodical at all costs, including those that only affect the shareholders. I say, if the online edition has a growing audience, while printed subscription rates drop, the newspapers ought to figure out a new business model. One that compensates journalists for solid reporting, regardless of how it appears - ink or pixelated form. In fact, I tend to favor a move toward digital news, if for no other reason than to save a few trees, but that's an entirely different conversation.

Online or traditional newsprint, the great dailies of this country - The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal - must remain credible and reputable sources of news. At all costs.

It pains me to log into any of these pillars of printed word and find anything Brittany-Octomom-
Jon-and-Kate-plus-eight-related. And yet, the only chance these organizations have at survival, the only way for them to compete with the trash that really moves product, like the people magazines and the Perez Hiltons, is to enter the gossip game. I've come to terms with the idea that if I really want to know who Jennifer Aniston is fucking these days, or what Amy Winehouse is sniffing, I'm just as likely to find that out from the Cincinnati Enquirer as I am, The National Enquirer.

As someone who makes their livliehood from the advertising industry, I'm especially ok with the idea of more ads. It's just the price of doing business. Especially if they're entertaining ads. Let's face it. Newspapers have gone into, as we all know, the business of entertainment.

Boards >> Screening Room >> Apple - Second Opinion

Sure, it brings into question how objectively a newspaper might report on one of their larger corporate sponsors, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Where I draw the line is at the New York Times and what they've sacrificed in return for the almighty Apple dollar.

For anyone who reads the New York Times online
, the ultimate media whores have given up approximately 2/3 of their front page (the majority of it, for all you math-letes out there) to feature the humorous stylings of Apple's bumbling PC man and his foil, the young, hip mac guy. Entertaining? Perhaps. But two fucking thirds. That's no longer news. That's just a few headlines squished between a big, fat, corporate shill. What happened to America's most trusted (albeit liberal) rag?

And the newspaper industry wonders why nobody cares about them anymore.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I, Anonymous (Part 2)

A while back, I posted a rant which I had also sent into the local alternative weekly, The Portland Mercury, in hopes of making it to their column, I, Anonymous. It never did get published in the paper - just on their site. Their loss.

I'm at it again. And rather than wait to see if it ever get's posted, I'll simply share it with you, my loyalists, in this exclusive preview to what will hopefully be coming soon to an I, Anonymous column near you.

Bathroom Savages
Hey Germ Freak working on the second floor of my office building - I feel ya. I don’t like touching bathroom door handles, either. And though you waste an obscene amount of paper managing this disorder, I’ll even forgive you that, too. But after you use the paper towel to open the door, so that you’re precious little hands never make indirect contact with some other dude’s dirty dong, could you please stop throwing crumpled wads of paper on the floor. Besides, don’t you have to open the door to your office after you leave the bathroom? The same door all those filthy cock fondlers also handle? This is a place of business, but where is it ok to drop your detritus into a mounting pile on the floor? Apparently where only people with very clean penises live.
- Anonymous

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nike retread

I love Nike hoops ads. I look forward to them with every NBA playoffs.
The original, Mars Blackman with his main man Michael Jordan.
Barber shop smack talk between C. Webb and Spree.
The LeBrons.
I love what Nike and their ad agency, Wieden and Kennedy have done together. But I gotta say, this...this is disappointing, if not incredibly annoying.

Some jackass (SNL's Keenan Thompson?) making Bron look like a tool:


Chris Rock making Penny Hardaway look smooth:



The other jackass (Kobe's voice) is David Allen Grier, just confirmed by ESPN announcers as the puppets were trotted out for more on-air hijinx. And the charade soldiers on with three, new, equally uninspired, flat falling spots. Perhaps the most interesting part of it all, is the director, Stacy Wall, an old Wieden vet, most likely had a hand in the little Penny campaign that got so egregiously bit.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Have an opinion, please

You know why I love Miss California, Carrie Prejean? Not because she's a walking hypocrisy - playing the family values card while naked photos of her pop up all over the internet. But that is all fantastic.

No, I love Miss Prejean because she has an opinion. And as unpopular as her opinion may have been (probably not very among Miss USA audiences), she stood by it.

A couple nights ago, I went out for dinner and asked my server whether he preferred the berry cobbler or the bread pudding. Without skipping a beat, he answered "berry cobbler." I ordered it and I realized at that moment just how much I loathe a server who won't indulge me in this simple exercise.

Invariably, when I go out to eat, I engage in this little ritual while ordering, regardless of how dissimilar the two menu items I'm deliberating on may be. The discourse has become some kind of subconscious habit for me and while it drives my less confrontational co-diners to cringe, I really don't really care. I figure nobody at my table knows the kitchen better than our server and I want to hear what they have to say.

Too often, the response is "it depends on what you're in the mood for." I'm not a fucking moron. I understand that the bacon-wrapped pork loin is very different than the tofu sprout salad and that someone who may be in the mood for one, probably isn't in the mood for the other. But if I'm asking which you prefer, than I care to know your opinion. Take that as a compliment. You, my server, strike me as someone who I can trust, and, unless you have non-functioning taste buds, I'm pretty sure you have an opinion to give.

You either like cilantro or you don't. You either prefer chocolate over vanilla, or you're a frigid, angry person. And if you
spend a decent part of your life working in a kitchen, you most certainly have some idea of what you'd order from it.*

Today's workplace is full of answers like "
it depends on what you're in the mood for." That's the safe answer. That's the answer that gets you invited to lots of meetings and slapped on the back. That's the answer that keeps you firmly rooted in middle management with no where to go but down. That's not the answer that gained a Miss USA contestant 15 minutes of national hoopla.

Mind you, I don't ask everyone what they think. And frankly, I have no interest in what Miss Prejean has to say about same sex marriage. But, if I do ask for your opinion, whether you're serving me dinner or selling me insurance, make sure you have one. I might just buy it.

*If the server is a vegetarian, or has some other dietary restrictions, their response comes with inherent limitations. I can live with that and even account for it in making my decision. But to not have an opinion at all is complete and utter bullshit.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is Ashton Kutcher The Messiah?

He does have over 1.5 million followers. On twitter (1,504,175 at the time of this post).

You've probably heard the breaking news all week that Mr. Kutcher arrived at this astounding number while publicly challenging CNN to a twitter race - first one to a million followers. Now, all of those followers wait anxiously to hear what Ashton will say next. Things like:

@cnnbrk isn't much better. Trust me.

Maybe this is just what the world needs right now. The economy is in the shitter. The arms race is about to go up like a tinder box. And a bunch of Mexican pigs just pushed us into the next great pandemic. Who better to lead us toward salvation, than a hunky kid who has a thing for mommy figures and punkin' his friends.

The thing that's cool about this new avenue for self-fulfilling prophets, like Ashton, is that it's never too late to join the masses, become a disciple and proselytize yourself. Many of these false idols you may be following even follow other false idols themselves, which all makes for a very egalitarian second coming.

So? Who's ready to play God?

Friday, April 10, 2009

The show that nobody's talking about

Either no one actually watched this year's "revealing new TNT series" Trust Me, starring Will, from Will and Grace and Ed, from Ed, or no one is man enough to admit that they watched it. Well, this is one guy who not only watched every episode this season, but bears no shame admitting it.

It's a show about life in an ad agency. I work in an ad agency. I had to watch it. Only, this isn't really how things are in an ad agency. At least not my ad agency. The show draws on industry cliches to form its plot lines, then executes them with ham-fisted dialogue that real agency folks would get laughed at, or fired for even thinking.

What I find most interesting is that this show, is little more than a modern take on AMC's hugely popular, Mad Men. Only, with crappier writing, acting, directing, set design and wardrobe. Don't take my word for it - see the Golden Globes 2009 Best Television Series - Drama. And yet, I've never been able to watch an entire episode of Mad Men (except for that one where Don Draper is led away from his meetings in L.A. by some little tramp to frolic in Palm Springs at someone's
super dope, mid-century modern home).

So what about Trust Me did I find so arresting? I don't know. Perhaps it was Griffen Dunne as the aging Group Creative Director. That guy can do no wrong since the mid-80s flick, After Hours. Maybe it was the fact that the Ed guy played an A&R guy in a short lived series called Love Monkey that I thought had potential. Or maybe I'm just so narcissistic that I imagined I was watching my life with a whole lot more drama.

Whatever the reason, please watch the reruns this summer so I can find out what happens next in the exciting, fast-paced lives of advertising creatives, Mason and Connor next season on Trust Me, only on TNT.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Let's Keep Facebook Fun, People

(Written as a guest blog for

You’ve seen it before.

You’re a little bored, you log into Facebook and your social networking buzz is quickly killed by the inevitable bad news update. Some examples:

Molly Jenkinson is hoping her hubby has better luck this week on the job hunt. Can’t take much more of him being home.

John Quimby
is hello Monday. You sure look a lot like Saturday and Sunday.

Paul Hatfield
is sad.

I’ve changed the names to protect the pathetic, but these are real posts I’ve seen along with countless other layoff laden updates that practically beg you for a condolence, or even to pry for more information.

That may be what’s on their mind, as Facebook so politely asks its users with every log in. But that query should be treated like someone asking how you’re doing. They don’t really want to know how you’re doing. It’s a courtesy. And the courteous response should be, “fine thanks,” or in the case of a Facebook status update, some witty variation thereof (I can even live with the non-witty updates, which are aplenty – those people just don’t know any better).

I understand that what I am witnessing is a sign of the times. In real time. I can even imagine these downtrodden folks thinking, “hey, I have a lot of friends in here. Maybe one of them can get me a job.” But nothing is less attractive than desperation. And nothing sounds more desperate to a potential employer, or several hundred of the people you’ve come to know throughout your life, than bemoaning your out-of-work status on Facebook.

As someone who recently lost their job, if only temporarily, I can tell you that the last thing I wanted all 356 of my “friends” to know is that I was laid off. Most of those people don’t even know what I do. It would be like putting on 60 pounds before my high school reunion and telling everyone I still live in my parents’ basement. "So, ah, if you want to come over and hang out later…"

Facebook is where I go to look up old girlfriends (or more accurately, girls I wished were girlfriends but they just wanted to be “friends”). It’s where I go to relive bad college haircuts, which may be why I could never get those girls. And occasionally, it’s where I go to see the odd status update from someone who never struck me as all that odd.

Facebook is also a great resource. And it should be used to your advantage when times are tough. But be tactic
al about it. Find the folks in your network who are in a similar field. Find out what they’re up to, who they know or what they can suggest. Better yet, sign up for LinkedIn where everyone’s looking for a new job.

And for the love of all that’s sacred, most especially your own personal dignity, please don’t tell me your troubles if we haven’t spoken in 15 years. I just don’t want to know.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tropicana’s Strangely Arousing Redesign

**UPDATE** Tropicana has reversed streams and is back to the old package. NPR caught on to the story. At least they're gonna use the little boob caps.

I promised myself I would never post on the topic of marketing/advertising/media. It’s a pretty crowded space and frankly I get enough of it during the day. But my connection to this particular piece of communication is bigger than that. This isn’t a relationship built on a brand seducing me with enticing images. This long-standing relationship has been built on pure, unadulterated taste.

r the better part of my life, I’ve been a daily drinker of Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice – I became partial to the “Some Pulp” variety shortly after it was introduced. There was a dark period in the late 70s when my mother and I opted for Minute Maid. It was purely experimental. Not only does Tropicana taste far superior to Minute Maid, Tropicana always had a much more appealing package (I can’t find any record of the old black Minute Maid cartons online, but to a near-sighted 8-year-old at seven in the morning, that thing was an ominous sight on the top shelf of your fridge).

Like every giant brand, Tropicana worries that if they don’t update their image every so often, they're gonna go the way of aging Gen-Xers who die off from excessive tattoo-ing, losing all market share to some synthetic liquid that screams energy and gen
etic enhancements. This is a hip, bold new world we live in. No time for oranges pierced with candy-striped straws. Tropicana needed something that said… “oh, well.”

I get the whole m
inimalist thing. At first, I actually kind of liked it. But upon further inspection, this thing stands off the shelf like a package of Fleets Enemas.

But here’s the best part. I’ve been getting the new cartons for the last couple weeks, with the same old, flat orange twisty cap as before. But this week’s carton featured a bulbous, boob-like* twisty cap, meant to represent a real orange. Somebody in marketing screwed up and didn’t have his little plastic boobs ready in time for the big redesign launch. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that meeting...

“Johnson! Where are my 12 million little orange boobies?”

“Um, they were supposed to be shipped two months ago sir. I don-“

“How the hell can we launch a major new redesign that would lull a screaming child to sleep, without our little plastic boobie caps!?”

“Um, I don-“

“You’re fired Johnson!”

Despite all that, I’ll keep suckling at the newly introduced Tropicana teet. Everyday.

*The wife thought the new cap resembled more of the tip of a penis. Gender thing?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Weird Week That Was

It all started with jury duty. 8 am. Tuesday morning.

Never done it, so I really had no idea what to expect. But since I have been on city buses, in public libraries and to the DMV, I should have known. I was in for a cross-section of humanity that explains just how someone like George W. Bush gets elected, twice, and the Home Shopping Network is perennially a ratings bonanza.

Somehow I was whittled down
from a jury pool of about 300 to a presiding jury of six - I owe this to my not being a public racist and my never having been involved in a domestic violence case. Throughout the selection process, I was amazed to learn just how many of my fellow Multnomah-countyians have no formal education beyond high-school, currently have no job and were involved in domestic violence cases. And willing to discuss it all with perfect strangers.

The gist of the case was that the accused, a woman of about 55, allegedly hurled a piggy bank, which was really more of a clown bank, at her biological daughter - a woman who had been absent from her life for 30-some years - hitting her in the face. Seems like an extreme reunion, but I am leaving out some details.

The real drama happened in the cozy confines of our jury room, where we were routinely sent while the attorneys tried to get their shit together. Back there, the six of us got to know each other real well over the day and a half of proceedings. It was kinda like the Breakfast Club, but everyone was some variation of the freaky Ally Sheedy character.

We had the recent college grad. who works with special needs kids, the 40-something ex-Nike shoe modeler who's been out of work for three years, the 50-something bull-dyke with a haircut that could stab you to death, the preppy housewife who brought her side-job stuffing envelops into our jury room, a small Turkish man who's name could not be pronounced no matter how hard you tried, and me.

It was back in this tiny room that I learned more than I ever would want to know about the small Turkish man. He moved to the U.S. for a woman he loved. They got married, he got a good job, and together they had a child. Wife leaves the man. He loses his job. And he has no family or friends anywhere in this country. But since he still has partial custody of his kid, he can't go anywhere.

The man began crying. I shit you not. Right there, in the jury room. As we tried to determine the fate of some Jerry Springer cast-offs (what the hell happened to that show), I had to watch a grown man cry about his broken heart. So fucking brutal.

The evening after my first day in court, my boss asked me to meet her for a drink. That was strange but since I was already fired, rehired temporarily, and had an end date coming soon, I figured whatever she had to tell me couldn't possibly bring me down. She informed me, that despite the five layoffs we saw last week, all of which took effect immediately, I was being offered my job back.

The only sense I can make of it all, is that my agency was on a parrallel path with the stock market. Lots of panic. Everybody selling off everything they had. Then we reached a point that was so low, you couldn't afford not to buy in. And now, anyone left treading water, is getting rescued by a big, slow-moving barge called Recovery.

Speaking of the market, the interview with Jim Madden (correction - Jim Cramer. Thanks anonymous. Not sure where I got Madden.) on the Daily Show last Thursday was pure genius. I urge you to watch all three parts. And thank you, John Stewart for having the brass set you have to castigate these people in front of millions. They truly deserve it.

This weird week came to a close straight out of Seinfeld's bizzaro-world, where the complete opposite of what should happen, happens.

We've been working feverishly for a client who seems to show no appreciation and instead, talks to us as if we are trained monkeys. I took offense and stood up for myself during one late afternoon meeting. In most cases of this nature, I reflect on my behavior and while I'm happy I said what I did, I offer a written apology to friends, coworkers, the wife, or whoever fell victim to my latest offense. This seemed like it was gonna be another one of those times. And then something totally crazy happened. Something bizarro. The client sent me an apology for her behavior. Totally unprecedented.

I only hope the week that starts in a few short hours is equally entertaining.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bad Idea Advertising

What could be dumber than quitting your job and starting an ad agency in this wretched economy?

And yet, I am embarking on just such a pipe dream. The only difference being, I may soon have no job, and my partner doesn't have to quit his, so we figured, what the hell. Starting an ad agency right now just may be the smartest thing we ever do.

Maybe a little independent shop with low overhead, a big rolodex, smart, strategic thinking, a fresh take on how marketers can use social media for good, not mediocrity and an outside roster of award-winning creative talent, hand-picked for each specific job is just what this wretched economy needs. Specifically, this partner of mine and I propose the creation of an agency based largely on the ideals I've recently spoken about in this blog - keeping things simple. Perhaps, all of us, even marketers, can live more productively if we strip away the unnecessary elements that only seem to add time, costs and confusion.

Then again, maybe not.

But we're going for it, damnit. We just haven't settled on a name, yet. A few contenders, but nothing set in letterhead. And so, in the spirit of embracing social media, I invite you, my readers to contribute any names or thoughts you think best represent this type venture in the comments section below.

And just remember, there are plenty of bad ideas. We're open to all of them.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Guest Post: The Blargument

Note: This is a guest post by Ian Sohn. It represents Ian's POV alone and not those of his employer or me [Lefty]. You can find my [Lefty's] counter argument at Ian's blog.

So here we go ...

A few days ago @LenKendall tagged me to participate in a Blargument. A what? A Blargument of course:

  • Two Tweeples decide they want to fight it out in more then 140 characters. [This is a particularly interesting bullet given the nature of this particular blargument]
  • They communicate with each other and agree to a formal blargument/topic(s).
  • Blarguing parties write a guest post on respective blogs making their case.
  • Two blarguars then choose two other tweeples to select “opponents” to battle it out.
  • So it’s kind of like a duel only with way less Aaron Burr.
Lefty and I agreed to argue about Twitter - total waste of time or effective communication vehicle?

First off, Lefty isn't even on Twitter, so I'm not sure how he can make a strong argument either way [I look forward to seeing his post]. If you aren't familiar with this "microblogging" service, I encourage you to visit the "about us" section at Trust me, it'll make this post a lot more relevant.

Second, when Lefty proposed the topic I was a bit turned off. It seems like everywhere I look I'm seeing one argument or another for or against Twitter. Then I thought about the fact that far more people are not on Twitter than are, and that I live in a tiny little social media bubble. Maybe beyond that bubble it's still a relatively interesting topic. So rather than try to make some faux heady argument, I'll give you seven simple considerations:

1. If you are a publisher of any kind, Twitter is a great distribution vehicle. I find it a very effective way to distribute the content I create (i.e. blog posts).

2. Twitter is a great way to meet interesting people. The example that immediately comes to mind is @Bogusky, Alex Bogusky of Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Alex is a guy I wouldn't normally have the chance to meet, let alone debate. Yet just last week Alex tweeted: CNN and NYT are already corrupted by popularity as a substitute for truth. There is no such thing as traditional news anymore. The following conversation ensued:

3. Twitter is a way of staying in ambient touch with old friends & colleagues. I can think of a former boss, a former colleague and a girl I grew up with - all of whom I am in touch with via Twitter. Do we have the deepest of connections? No. But at least we're still connected.

4. Twitter gives you a different perspective from interesting people. Sign up for Twitter and immediately start following @TerryMoran from Nightline. These are some of my favorites Tweets from Terry during President Obama's speech to congress [remember folks, he's limited to 140 characaters, and I think he still manages to engage, entertain and provoke]

5. Twitter can make you money. The most famous case study is Dell driving real revenue via Twitter, which you can read all about here

6. Zappos has famously demonstrated how effective Twitter is as a consumer relations medium. Trust me, just Google "Zappos Twitter Case Study." It's been written about ad nauseum.

7. Quite simply, Twitter is a delightful diversion. And that's not such a horrible thing, is it?

At the end of the day, Twitter is simply a communication tool [one of many that exist]. Tool-du-jour? Perhaps. Annoying name? Arguable. But what's wrong with all that? Rather than tear it down - as seems to be a popular sport of late - jump in. The water's warm and the conversation is good.

And with that I [Ian] tag @catchuplady, @kaimac
and @stevenoverman. If any of you dare, challenge a friend to a blargument and pass it along.