Letters of Nut

Gather ’round, Grandkids. And put down those Tide pods — they’re for dessert.

Back before blogs, I regularly sent lots of cranky letters to people, some of whom actually answered. In rooting through old files the other say, I discovered I still have a bunch, including a thick file folder filled with exchanges between me and various clodpates at the Miami Hurled, like their runty publisher. Save that for another day.

When we first moved to Florida, I was struck by the astonishing incompetence of, well, everybody. Restaurant help, counter clerks, paraprofessionals, trash collectors —  it was everywhere. It was like everybody was faking it. But what floored me flat was the sheer illiteracy of so-called professionals in advertising and journalism, people who were supposed to able to craft simple sentences, but clearly had difficulties. So when I got this flyer in the mail, I had to respond:

“Florda.” Pretty classy, innit. Trust this outfit to provide you with sensitive data on charitable donations and philanthropic institutions? Like what this says about your chosen profession? Ass afire, I dashed off this indignant letter:

I never got a response. Wonder why. Truth to tell, I was kinda hoping for a job offer.

Aah, well. The 80s. Blogging turned out to be more fun anyway, and nowadays all sorts of twisted correspondents are happy to respond. As we’ll see over the next few days.

Posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment, Shaken and Stirred | 9 Comments

Ears to the Beans

Guido is big on the new year tradition of making a pot of beans. This year she used black-eyed peas, simmered with carrots, celery, onions, and a ham hock. She also made a 17-bean soup, which she served with collards and mustard greens flavored with pancetta. We polished off the batch this evening. It’s been kind of windy around the house.

But why black-eyes?

“I always liked black eyes,” she tells me. “Used to eat them a lot, growing up.”

You ate black guys growing up? (Note: my tinnitus has gotten a lot worse over the last year. Takes some getting used to.)

“All the time. Even when we were kids.”

You ate black guys when you were a kid?

“Sure. My mom gave ’em to me and my brother. We loved ’em.”

You and your brother ate the black guys your mom gave you?

“Yeah. Although I do them a lot different, now.”

You do your black guys a lot different from your mom?

“I like them a lot hotter and spicier than I used to. Back then, they were kind of bland.”

Now you like your black guys hot and spicy, I get it.

“Why are you asking me this? You liked ’em, too, didn’t you?

Happy New Year.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 7 Comments

Cold Blues

Even in South Florida, this was no weekend to enjoy a cold beer, although Lard knows I tried. It’s especially challenging, because Guido and I agreed to clean out a bit, and vowed not to drink any hard liquor the entire month. Without tequila or Jack Daniels to keep Jack Frost at bay, what’s a man to do? And don’t even think about pointing a cup of hot milk at me. Udderly inappropriate.

So here I am at Total Wine, exercising my Frequent Imbiber mileage, and I stumble (literally) across a twofer deal in the beer aisle. Mix and Match — any two six-packs of Blue Point products for $10. That’s about half the going rate ($9.95).

BP label

I’m a big fan of Blue Point Toasted Lager, which is good in a bottle (and remarkable on tap), so I grab it. I see they’re offering Summer Ale, too, which is okay, although not as good at the Lager in my book, but mix and match it is so I grab a six of those, too.

(Twelve cold Blues. As in, twelve bar blues? I’ll work on that.)

The Summer Ale turns out not as I remember it. This may be because it’s brewed for summer climates, and whatever else you want to call this first week of January, “summer” won’t fly. (Sidebar: If I had a dollar for every nimrod I’ve met over the last 30 years who tells me they could never live in Florida because they’d “miss the change in seasons,” I could move to Hawaii, and sure as hell would. Is it ever 45 degrees in August here? This ain’t Duluth.)

But then I spot this on the label, and see that maybe there’s another reason: this stuff has outlived its shelf life. That might explain the sale, too.

Needless to say, I drank it all anyway. Who am I to turn up my nose at the elderly?

The other day when I am back at Total Wine (yes, I’m a regular: they even run out and offer to park my car when they see me coming) I spurn the Summer Ale in favor of two six-packs of Toasted Lager, figuring I would tell them that ‘mix and match” means “one on the left and one on the right.” But they don’t even ask, just ring up the discount.

So, as they say in the massage business, Happy Ending! To which I’ll add a shot of the third graphic on the bottle’s neck, which suggests perhaps Blue Point has encountered some of the same clueless weather clodpates that I have. Or other varieties.

Posted in News From the Nation's Dicktip | 6 Comments

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.

[1] http://www.afpnet.org/Audiences/MemberNewsDetail.cfm?ItemNumber=42416

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