Bank Shot

This plaque presides over the toilet in a bank’s rest room.

It takes me many minutes – which I am doomed to spend anyway, thanks to a lethargic prostate gland slowed even further by the frigid room and my own cold hands on Big Poppy – but I figure out this isn’t a depiction of a magician levitating a variety of objects out of the head of a dog whose scalp has been neatly flipped open.

No, it’s a non-verbal prohibition about what sorts of things shouldn’t be dropped into the bank’s toilet. But what are those things?

I can identify about half these icons, including “soap” because it says so (but why the hell would anybody drop an entire bar of soap into the toilet of a bank’s rest room? Why would anybody bring a bar of soap into a bank’s rest room?). What’s the thing on the extreme left? What’s on the bottom left – it looks like a squashed WW2 aviation cap with ear-flaps. Is that the largest razor blade in the world under the soap? If it is, do you want to give orders to whatever giant bearded creature uses it?

The scary part is, whatever all these things are, they made it to the sign for a reason — it’s happened somewhere. The same reason shippers write DO NOT EAT THIS on packing material. There are human beings out there who without these cautions would do the unthinkable, so parties with something to lose have to dumb themselves down to protect themselves.

You can bank on it. (Sorry.)




Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 6 Comments

White With Foam

Yeah, I’m into shaving. Over the years I experiment with all sorts of shaving products, and test many techniques. There’s the pre-shave and after-shave lotions, beaver-tail brushes, dozens of different kinds and brands of foams/gels/creams in cans/canisters/tubes, etc. There’s the electric shaver that Norelco made famous, advertising ad nauseum every Christmas. I try cans of sickly-scented 5 for a $1 product, precious little cups of imported French crème the price of Eggs Benedict at the casino buffet, and everything in between. I use vintage 1950 style safety razors, Bic throwaways, some treacherous roll-out-the-blade device (anybody else try this deadly contraption? What were they thinking?) and even a straight razor with which miraculously I don’t cut my throat, just bleed profusely.

For years I remain faithful to Wilkinson blades — remember them? — but they vanish, and more or less become Schick products (in the US). The current iteration is called Xtreme 3, and they’re excellent, almost as good as the old Wilkie Swords. I have yet to try Dollar Shave Club or any of those services, only because I don’t know a soul who has, and have nobody with whom to discuss its virtues. No, I don’t trust what I hear advertised, even when it’s my main man Jim Rome doing the pimping.

I’m a big fan of Caswell-Massey colognes, but after trying many of their overpriced shaving products over the years, I’m thoroughly unimpressed. For the last decade or so I use a shaving soap made by an American company called Van Der Hagen, a product I find only on the bottom shelves of Walgreens, practically invisible (but see below!). It costs all of $3, lasts me months, and works perfectly, better than products that cost literally five times as much. I own a high-quality shaving brush, but not the top of the line because the sole distinction between these products at this level is the handle, which has zero effect on the shave.

My routine: rinse with hot water, lather with the brush, shave, rinse, then lather/shave/rinse all over again. If I’m showering afterwards, I touch up whatever remaining rough spots I feel with face soap and a second razor. I have neither beard nor moustache, and never did.

On my last trip to my neighborhood Walgreen, I discover that the store is rearranged, the shaving products relocated. Van De Hagen soap is still available — praise the lawd: the number of products that seem to count me as their sole customer and vanish from the shelves over the years has me ever-wary — but it’s behind a locked plastic shield. Curious. But even more curious, there are now other Van Der Hagen products I never knew about — brushes, razors, mugs, etc.

I ask a be-smocked hunch-backed hag to open the display case for me. I also ask her why an item like this would be stashed so securely, and she croaks, “Because when they steal ‘em, they take ‘em all, not just one. Rat bastards.” Sweet thing. Somebody steals shaving soap? Shit, I’m the only person I know who still even uses it. I understand why some of the meds are secured, and even razors – they’re potential weapons. But shaving soap?

Anyway, I buy their soap plus a product I’d never seen before called Shave Butter. (No, shave is not a verb here. Ugh.) You squeeze out a dollop about the size of a nickel, and rub into the area you intend to shave. Don’t bother to rinse afterwards (says the label), just rub it into your skin because it serves as a moisturizer, too. After two applications, I’m sold. Although I’m not ready to give up the brush and soap.

Years ago I encountered a magazine article (in Esquire?) describing shaving techniques. It emphasized the importance of preparing the area to be shaved, retelling a tale about Abe Lincoln who, as a strapping young Kentuckian, earned a reputation as a world-class wood-chopper. “If I have 30 minutes to split a rail,” he allegedly said, “I’d devote 20 minutes sharpening my axe, and ten minutes swinging it.” The applicable lesson: When shaving, allow ample time to rinse thoroughly and lather generously, preparing the surface for a closer, smoother, easier shave.

More recently I visited an internet site addressing the same topics, advising that best results are obtained when shaving against the direction of the growth. E.g., shave the neck from the throat up to the chin, not down from the chin. Similarly, shave cheeks south to north. The site, targeting metrosexual styles, had similar suggestions for shaving 0ther areas, from heads to toes. Who knew? (While this has proven useful as well, I don’t want to think too much about people shaving their toes.)

You’re right if the meticulous approach to shaving sounds at odds with my overall nonchalance regarding styles, clothes, hair style, and general appearance. I stop wondering about this myself long ago. Let some grad student or shrink figure it out and concoct a theory.

Anyway. all this started as a (big hairy) shout-out to Van Der Hagen, which looks like it’s finally emerging from marketing obscurity, at least locally.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 26 Comments

#MeToo Sorta Kinda

Sex-money-and-love (1)Like most of us in the fundraising field at the time (back when “fundraising” was two words), I stumbled into it. I was the writer, so I wrote the grant proposals and appeals. I was good at it, and since I wasn’t good at anything else that paid money, it became a full-time occupation.

In those days there were few women in the field. Today women outnumber men by about 3:1.[1] But what has always been true — more so now than ever — is that women were more inclined toward charitable and philanthropic endeavors than men. Even in the early days, those of us in the business understood that if we wanted the real money, we needed to talk to the Alpha Woman — the mother, wife, or daughter. Sometimes we used the term “Present or Future Widow.” Sweet, innit?

Ten years into my career I find my way to an interview with the hiring partner of a consulting firm. A rare (at the time) female, she was about 15 years my senior, and had made her way up from secretary in a hospital development office to major gifts officer, then gone with the vice president for development when he left to create a consulting firm. Evidently she knew her shit.

We go over my unimpressive résumé rather casually, as she nibbles around the edges of the rind where personal and professional conjoin. I don’t get this then, but she is exploring whether or not I would be a “good fit” for the firm, and how potential donors and clients would react to me on a gut level — stuff between the lines of a C.V.  This, too, is a characteristic of the fundraising business, which is often uncomfortably similar and degrading as a beauty contest.

It’s July, and despite the AC the room starts to heat up. I’m over-dressed (fundraisers compensate for their second-tier professional status with clothing and other shallow distractions), as is she. She invites me to get comfortable, and slips off her own suit jacket, leaving her in a white sleeveless shell that (I can’t help but notice) shows off a pair of generous blouse bunnies. I shed my jacket, loosen my tie, and undo two shirt buttons. I’m tempted to kick off my shoes, but my socks have holes.

Until now we are seated facing one another, her desk between us. Leaving the paperwork, she gets up, gestures to me that I should take a seat in a stuffed chair across the room while she settles into a loveseat to my right. She nonchalantly crosses her legs, revealing considerable nylon. Suddenly, it occurs to me that (a) she has a helluva great body, and (2) she wants me to know it.

She tells me that her firm has a niche that she describes as combining successful development processes with personal and financial counsel. They have a stable of dependable donors who rely on the firm to guide their giving, and a portfolio of non-profit agencies who enlist their counsel to secure charitable support. Most of the donors are the wives, former wives, and widows of financially successful husbands. “The widows are the lucky ones,” she tells me. “They outlived the husbands who ran around on them once they turned 40.

“Anybody off the street can match our nonprofit clients up with interested donors,” she says, dismissively. “It’s like fishing in as stocked pond — we make it as entertaining as we can knowing the outcome is certain. It’s what we do on the personal level that makes the difference. Why these lonely, lively, wealthy, and still attractive women come to us.”

As if there were any doubt by now — even to dumbshit me, who hadn’t yet morphed into the wise, sophisticated, and utterly charming man of the world you know me as today — what’s going on here, she sweeps her eyes over me from head to toe, undressing me as thoroughly as a pole dancer before the lights go out. “You clean up nice enough,” she doesn’t actually say, “but for this gig, I need to know you down and dirty.”

I go home, a bit stunned. I want to tell somebody about this, but don’t know who. I feel cheap, used, toyed with. And exposed! — strangers on the street take one look and size me up: Pimp! Ponce! Prostitute!

I am also horribly, thoroughly, out-of-my-head turned on. Sorry, but I am 32 years old, unattached, and obsessed with sex on a minute-by-minute schedule as a rutting goat. Do I want this debonair 45-year blonde with a knockout body and a world of experience to “audition” my bony ass for this gig? Check this box for yes, that one for hell yes.

Show time finally arrives: over the weekend in her apartment, where I pass with flying colors (and on that subject, she’s not a natural blonde). Afterwards, we repair to her study where she pours us both straight whisky and light post-coital cigarettes. Pulses still pumping, we eye each other frankly over the coffee table. She drags, exhales, smiles coyly.

“Cunnilingus consummates the deal,” she purrs.

It is the first time in my life I hear a woman pronounce the word “cunnilingus.” Maybe “consummates,” too, but well, who cares?

I observe that starting tonight, the terms of art we use in philanthropy — solicitation, charitable giving, major gifts, loyal donors, hot prospects, etc., will become double entendres. She solemnly nods her head.

I eventually ask — subtly — if the constituency I would, um, represent will be qualitatively similar to the just-completed transaction. “Not for me to judge,” she says. “You’re the  one who fills out that report.” She licks her upper lip thoughtfully.” Stubs out her smoke, swallows her shot. “And I strongly recommend refreshing your data now and then for comparative purposes.”

This remark inspires an unscheduled encore performance, after which I wobble home, bowlegged.

Now let’s cut to the chase. In fact, I don’t accept the position (the job, that is.) This set-up sounds like the stuff of fantasy or a porn flick, but the reality of servicing a senior clientele rather dashes the dream. I wouldn’t last. I might not even deliver. A prostitute can’t afford to be shallow or picky, I guess.

But consider how this dovetails in the context of the “Me Too” movement. Look at the rungs of the ladder I’d need to ascend to get into (and remain in) the lofty realm of high-end philanthropy. Is it substantially different from the harrowing experiences we’re hearing from young, beautiful models and actresses trying to break into show business? When you see the Beautiful People at fundraising galas, fabulous in their gowns and formal ware, celebrities among the commoners who work all year to arrange the event, do you imagine the sordid backdrop that made it possible? Forget the casting couch –we have the donor divan!

On the one hand, we’re talking about raising money to cure cancer, feed starving people, underwrite critical research, bolster education, etc. Hardly the pursuits of lusty libertines. On the other hand, we’re talking power and money, which changes everything every time.

True, nobody forced themselves on me or made unwelcome advances. I wasn’t pawed or groped or made to watch anybody whacking off in a parlor palm. Nor did I ever sense even for a minute that walking away would impact, let alone ruin, my career. These are major departures from the harrowing Me-Too tales told today.

When I call my contact to decline her offer she sounds neither surprised nor disappointed; she handles it professionally and business-like. As do I, I hope. Neither of us suggests a further rendezvous, and in fact, I never see her again: she doesn’t attend any of the meetings or conferences conducted by local or national professional associations. Closest encounter: years later, I bump into a colleague who says he’d worked for the company briefly as a researcher. “I saw her around the office maybe three times in a year,” he recalls. “We’d say hello. That’s it. Tell you the truth, I never quite figured out how that agency found clients, made money, or what they did all day.” I don’t enlighten him.

In 1985, before I decide to move to Florida, a search for the company and its principals reveals nary a trace. I even make a few calls, including several to non-profits that had at one time retained their services, and nobody remembers anything. Even the contact who got me the audition (interview) doesn’t know what happened to them. “There was always something kind of fishy about that outfit,” she tells me. “In fact, that’s why I thought you’d be a good fit.”

Fishy. Let’s leave it there.


Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 10 Comments

Jack Offs

I become  a “Tennessee Squire” in 1991 when I purchase a plot of land at the Jack Daniel Distillery. For about $25 (as I recall), I get a certificate of ownership, a title (“Squire Squathole” has a pleasant ring, innit?), an annual pictorial calendar, regular updates about the business, people, and life in Lynchburg (oddly enough a dry town).

By the way — my plot of land is about one square inch.

It’s all done tongue-in-cheek in a deliberately corny style — and look at that, two metaphors involving the taste buds in a post about a delicious alcoholic beverage!

I do love my Jack Daniel’s when summer fades into fall, the skies showing more orange and dark blue, and a frozen drink isn’t as urgent as the warm embracing whiskey glow generated from within that only Master Jack has perfected.

Last month I get a one-page letter from Fred M. Elliott, who introduces himself as “one of the fellows” at the Distillery who serves as caretaker for their vintage antique fire trucks on display, a crowd-pleasing tourist attraction. He complains that there are people around who want to generate revenue by slapping ads on the fire trucks like you see on urban busses. Fred doesn’t like this idea at all, and says it would be like putting your grandma in a gorilla suit on the street to wave in customers. But he’s interested in hearing the opinions of the Squires.

So this Squire writes him back:

Dear Fred,

Thank you for your note, and the opportunity to comment.

First off, you’re right: never deface those vehicles with advertisements or anything else. If anybody wants to pollute the premises with eyesores, propose putting ads on workers’ overalls and jackets, like Nascar drivers. That should end the discussion.

Second, that’s a great idea about putting grandma to work, although if the senior population here in south Florida is indicative, the gorilla suit is probably redundant. There’s also real danger than some redneck ammosexual will take a shot at her, and claim Stand Your Ground protection.

Fred, I’ve only been enjoying Jack Daniel’s for a little over 40 years (and still no children!), so clearly I’m but a novice. But what I understand is that when today I take a sip or two (or on rare occasions, more), I’m tasting history, a tradition, an ancient formula, a link to a time when life was quite different from now. Jack Daniel’s sipping whisky is not just mere spirits, it’s spiritual. And whatever it takes up there in Tennessee to preserve the look, ambiance, and flavor of the Jack Daniel Distillery and property, you need to carry on, head held high. You’re on a mission from god.

If they want to compromise the integrity of your beautiful antique fire trucks, can lining the whisky barrels with creosote or KILZ be far behind?

Thanks for this opportunity to weigh in, Sir.

PS  Grandma says Hello, and “Abba dabba dabba.”

Posted in NIMBY | 5 Comments

Wyld on the Walls

Even before Hurricane Irma brought chaos and disruption to these climes, Guido and I created our own when we (read: she) decided that it was ‘way past time to repaint the interior of the house. Every stick of furniture, potted plant, electronic accessory, etc. has to be relocated. I was personally charged with taking literally thousands of books off their shelves, stuff them in boxes, and get them out of the way. We’ve been living in a maze for months. The only thing I do more often than bang my head on misplaced furniture and lamps is crush my toes against boxes and bags.

But the end is near. On Saturday, the crew comes out to finish off the walls of the living area, about 2/3 of the house. But first, we need more paint.

Picking colors isn’t easy, especially when one of us (read: not Guido) is somewhat blind and tasteless, but we settle on a cheery shade of yellow, which we’ll set off with something in the copper/bronze family. (I wanted the whole place copper/bronze. See: blind and tasteless, above.) That doesn’t fly, but Guido is okay with it as an accent, and we both agree that the color of the beer can shown here would be perfect.

For the record, this happens to be a wonderful tasting beer, too, absolutely unavailable in this market.

So one morning we hoppy in the jalopy and head to Home Depot, empty beer can in hand, to see what we can rustle up. As I get out, limping (crushed toes, remember?) and turn around, I find myself standing three feet away from a frowning Hollywood cop. He points at the beer can.

“Is than an open container of alcohol?” he asks.

Well, it’s open, but it’s empty.

“So you drank it while driving your vehicle?”

I drank it six months ago. Maybe more. Not in my car, as I recall.

Dick Tracy considers this sourly, no doubt sizing up the rather shabby-looking senior citizen standing unsteadily before him in a torn Key West tee shirt, who looks very much like somebody who never goes anywhere without a beer.

“Why would anybody believe that you just got out a car carrying a beer can that’s been empty for six months?” he asks. Or actually states.

At which point Guido, sensing (correctly) that I am seconds away from making a statement that will certainly cause this exchange to deteriorate into a genuine law enforcement incident, explains that we were going to the paint department to see if we could match the color of the can to use in our house.

The Law studies this a moment. The aged hippies are planning to paint their house the color of a beer can. “May I see the can, please?”

Don’t hurt it — it’s our only one.

Fearless Fosdick frowns at it (and me), and puts his nose over the opening — the can’s, not mine — and inhales. I sure hope somebody in the parking lot gets this on video, or at least a photo. Facebook post: Hollywood Cop Snorts Beer Can in Home Depot Parking Lot. Exhaling, he reads the label, shakes his head a little sadly, and silently hands it back.

Aren’t you going to give me a warning or something?

He squints, cop-like. “Don’t press your luck. In fact, the smart thing to do would be to put this in a bag if you’re gonna walk around with it. You might know it’s empty, but nobody else does.” Another glare. “Have a good day, and be careful.”

Good advice.

“You just can’t help getting into trouble, can you,” growls Guido as we make our way inside.

Hey, you didn’t think twice about carrying this into the store, either.

“No, but I don’t go out in public looking like an alcoholic derelict.” I can see she’s having doubts about the color, too. Because: wives.

Anyway, we get what we want, although it takes a trip to Sherwin Williams which has a nifty computer app that analyzes colors, then generates the formula to manufacture a perfect match, and come home. No arrests. Or even warnings.

Epilogue: When the painters show up to finish the house, we explain what we want with the accent color. We proudly show the crew chief our custom-blended paint, officially christened “Wyld.”

“You sure about this?” he asks. “Looks like a damn beer can!”

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 6 Comments

Power Failure

Takes  some doing, but I finally penetrate the Great Wall of Drooling Flaks and get to somebody at FPL (Florida Plunder and Loot) who can answer my questions about the company’s abject failure leading up to and following Hurricane Irma. Special Advisor to the CEO for Media Relations and Communications, he gives his name as Josef Mengela.

Hmm. Can I call you Joe?

“Not if you want this to conversation to continue.”

I ask him to respond to data reported in the Miami Hurled, which includes the following:

Overall, nearly 4.5 million of Florida Power & Light’s 4.9 million customers had their power fail, including 92% of accounts in Miami-Dade County and 85%  in Broward County.

The widespread outages happened despite FPL spending nearly $3 billion over the past decade to “harden” its electrical grid against the next monster storm. The investor-owned utility — which by law makes a guaranteed profit for shareholders between 9.6 and 11.6 percent — says it responded quickly to restore outages and that its storm-hardening efforts are working.

“Yeah — that’s right. We responded quickly. Is that a problem? You think we should have responded slowly, or maybe not at all?”

I gently remind the smarmy cockbite that the real concern isn’t their response, sluggish as it is, but an extraordinarily gigantic rate of systemic failure despite an allegedly costly campaign to render such responses unnecessary.

“Lemme stop you now because I know where you’re going with this,” says Mengele. “We hear this whining all the time, and it kinda gets old.

“First of all, it ain’t our fault, it’s yours. Let FPL trim trees the way we want and you’d have no problems at all. Here’s your choice: enjoy the beautiful, natural, healthy environment of subtropical landscaping and tree canopy, or live in a cratered moonscape. You want (a), you get power outages. We advocate (b), but you goddam tree-hugging snowflakes won’t let us nuke the terrain back to the stone age where we’d have unlimited fluorescent lights 24/7.”

And there’s no middle ground.

“Don’t matter if there is or there ain’t. We’re a monopoly — did you notice? It’s our way or the highway. Which brings me to the second point.

“We — FPL — do this for money. You know what is money? Money is why there’s an FPL. Money is why me and my CEO go to work every day, and why millions of investors trust us to make them more. You dickless goobers out there keep talking like FPL’s job is to provide electric power. HA! FPL’s job is to make profits. We’re a business, not a sniveling charity. We don’t give a possum’s pecker about power, all we worry about is a 10% return for our investors. Okay?”

Got it. You’d even kill for profit, like you did at the Hollywood Rehab Center.

“Oh, fuckin’ spare me. The reason people warehouse their decrepit family in these places is to get rid of them, first put ’em out of mind, then put the old farts out of their misery. How many croaked — a baker’s dozen so far? In a state so stuffed with ancient withering carcasses every dining room that runs Early Bird specials looks like a taxidermist’s studio? We did ’em a favor. They should thank us, not sue us. Hell — we made the roads a little safer and opened a few parking spots.

“But we got plenty of money — owning the PSC and the Florida Lege might cost a lot of campaign cash upfront but ultimately it saves us and the stockholders a bundle —  so we’ll settle this quietly. Toss in a few bouquets for the funeral, if there’s any flowers left in this storm-ravaged shithole of a state.”

Well, thanks for your time and your candor Mr. Mengele. Can’t say anything you told me is a surprise, but it’s nice to hear my darkest suspicions about what fucking fiends and cutthroats you are entirely justified.

“No problem, loser. I get paid for this — I bet you don’t!”

Posted in News From the Nation's Dicktip | 8 Comments

Bait Me

Does anybody else see the resemblance here? Not just in features, but body language.

With apologies to the Creature, whom I’ve always sort of admired.

Posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment | 8 Comments