Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Words

It used to be the words
dripped off my pen like honey,
now it seems they're only
in it for the money
They come and go
as they please,
proving to be no more
than a tease
At times they'll
disturb my sleep,
coming on in torrents that
appear too deep
Moved by the fear that
I may drown,
I reach for a pen to
write them down
Then I get the feeling that
they're only using me,
waking me from my sleep
to set them free.

                                Jan. 15, 1998

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore -
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over -
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode? 

- Langston Hughes, 1951

Langston Hughes in Harlem, June, 1958.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Nobody Knows Anybody. Not That Well.

Hard to believe 25 years have passed since Miller's Crossing was released. While I often think of the film, there is one line in particular that rings true, "Nobody knows anybody. Not that well." It's a line from the gangster Tom Reagan who's played by Gabriel Byrne.

I once took the Amtrak from Penn Station, NY to Union Station, DC with Gabriel Byrne. We disembarked at the same time and I stood behind him in line for the taxi cabs across from our Nation's Capitol. I recall his silver metallic wheeled bag hit my foot while we were waiting and for reasons I can't fathom, I asked him if I could take his picture. He politely said no and I waited an eternity for the line to move and him to get in his cab.

That line, written by the Coen Brothers, echoed in my mind the rest of the evening. "Why the heck did I ask Gabriel Byrne for a picture? I know better. I'm a New Yorker."

Truth is, I don't why I did it. I don't think any of us know why we do what we do. It's all a crap shoot when we leave our homes each day. I never know what I'm going to have for lunch. How does anybody figure any of it out?

It's astonishing when people think they do know you. They say things they believe to be true and most of the time it flies way off the mark. We just ignore them, change the subject. How bout the weather? Maybe we can agree on that. 

"Nobody knows anybody. Not that well." For some strange reason we think we do know people, just not what we ourselves are going to wear tomorrow.   

Gabriel Byrne in Miller's Crossing

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Top Five Famous People From Greenwich, CT

Number 5 - Kelly Rohrbach - Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2015 Rookie of the Year, dating Leonardo DiCaprio.

Kelly Rohrbach

Number 4 - Dorothy Hamill - Olympic Gold Medal in 1976, popular haircut before Jennifer Aniston.

Dorothy Hamill

Number 3 - Glenn Close - Golden Globe and Emmy award winning actress, often mentioned in the same breath as Meryl Streep.

Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (1987).
Number 2 - Steve Young - Hall of Fame Quarterback, Super Bowl XXIX and NFL MVP, ESPN analyst.
Steve Young

 Number 1 - George H. W. Bush - The 41st President of the United States of America (1989 - 1993).

George H. W. Bush

Monday, June 15, 2015

Snap, Crackle, Pop! Cereal Reminds Marketers to Think Outside the Box

You finish ironing your wrinkle-free shirt and head downstairs to the breakfast nook where sunlight filters in through the window and out to the doo-wop of blue jays and the hustle and bustle of busy squirrels. The day has begun, but your body still clings to its late-night torpor. Coffee percolates its pleasant aroma and you reach in the cupboard for a box brought to you by General Mills, Kellogg's, Post or Quaker Oats. You pour the contents into a familiar bowl, add milk and Snap, Crackle, Pop! They're Gr-r-reat and Magically Delicious!
Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker.
The box sits opposite you with a friendly gaze of Dig'em, Toucan Sam, Tony the Tiger or "Cap'n Crunch-a-tize me" with their gentle nudge to go get 'em. The snappin', cracklin', poppin' whole grain oats or rice or corn join the chorus as they're waking up, too. The sunlight in the room is golden like Honey Smacks, Combs, Cheerios and Bunches of Oats and you reach for your phone to check your texts, emails, Instagrams, local news, scores and what other people are tweeting about the latest episode of Game of Thrones, Scandal or The Bachelorette. You finish your cereal, put the spoon and the bowl in the sink and the box back in the cupboard. You no longer see the squirrels or hear the birds. You are programmed to begin your day.
Later that week, you find yourself standing in the cereal aisle and you notice the abundance of yellow and orange colors shining down on you and think for a split second: Did I remember to put my bowl in the sink this morning?
Marketers know the genesis of all of these ideas and the deliberate decisions that culminate in those magical moments leading up to conversion. The cereal aisle reminds us with its bright colors and cartoon characters and punchy tags to go beyond the box to stir that feeling ... you know, the one you had this morning when you were listening to the blue jays and your world awaken. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Dave Letterman's Impact on a Homesick New Yorker

In one week dis May, we said goodbye to Don Draper, B.B. King and Dave Letterman. While I'll miss all three, Letterman's void is the widest and the deepest as I've watched him for most of my life and most of his late night career.

Dave Letterman on NBC.
When it was Late Night with The World's Most Dangerous Band led by the incomparable Paul Schaffer, Letterman's antics were unpredictable, unusual and darn funny. I can recall being sick one summer and it seemed the only relief was Letterman and his "crash cam," a camera mounted on a skateboard that would crash into bottles and other visually impressive obstacles that would shatter and splash. Back then it seemed like Johnny Carson was Dave's opening act.

When I was at SUNY Buffalo, my roommates and I could barely afford rent much less cable or a decent TV. We'd have to shift the furniture around the living room to get reception and somehow, The Late Show always came through clearly. We'd gather like clockwork and no matter how broke we were, someone would scrape together a joint and we'd be glued to the set, critiquing his monologue, wondering whether or not his guests were really upset or if they enjoyed sparring with him. Who can forget Madonna's "nice rug" and his immediate retort "nice swim cap?" When I got back to NYC, I was determined to see him live and fill up on pizza and bagels.

I took my mom to my first show. I recall Nathan Lane was a guest and he killed it. I also recall getting a coffee from Hello Deli for the first time. The next show I had tickets to was on St. Patrick's Day in March of 1998 with Van Morrison and The Chieftans as the musical guest. The show was overbooked and I was turned away; however, the staff said I could come back to any other show as long as I let them know a day in advance. I picked his May 1, 1998 show, which was his 1,000th. Salma Hayek was supposed to be the first guest, but she cancelled at the last minute, leaving Norm MacDonald to cover two segments before Pearl Jam played Wishlist. I took my best friend to that one. We were seated in the balcony and while they discourage you from getting up, we both had to use the bathroom due to an aggressive happy hour beforehand. I remember running through the Ed Sullivan Theater and back to my seat just in time to see Pearl Jam take the stage.

In the year 2000, I worked across the street from Dave Letterman and would see Paul Schaffer on the street and Biff Henderson on his smoke break often. From high above, we could see where the guests arrived on 53rd street. I remember watching The Edge unload his guitar from a black SUV on October 29, 2001. Later, I would catch that performance on my rabbit-eared TV. For those who did not have cable then, CBS was the only channel you could get after September 11 as its antenna was on the Empire State Building.

Pumpkins blowing up on 53rd Street, Audioslave playing atop the marquee and the infamous Hello Deli Saga are memories I owe to Dave Letterman. Like a sailor out at sea, the iconic intro "From New York ..." was a beacon on the horizon welcoming you home, the image of the Tribeca Bridge, a bridge you once shoveled snow from despite its being covered, as familiar as the street you grew up on and Dave Letterman standing in the doorway, centerstage, smiling that smile, happy to see you ... and you, happy to see him each night.

Thanks for the memories, Dave!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Twitter Should Listen to Calvin Harris

Twitter's first quarter earnings report was a debacle. It was leaked early and the miss on expectations launched a fire sale similar to a Christmas tree lot on December 26. CEO Dick Costolo dove back under his desk, hiding from the angry mobs calling for his resignation.

From Silicon Valley to Wall Street to garages and basements around the world, it seems everyone is offering advice on what Twitter should do to regain its mojo, so I'll toss my marshmallow stick on the bonfire, too: Twitter should take a page from Calvin Harris.
Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris

In full-disclosure, I had no idea who Calvin Harris was until a colleague of mine returned from Las Vegas this week with photos and wild accusations that this DJ makes "$100 million" a year for pushing buttons! I was incredulous, but a quick search on Google turned up an article from Forbes that confirms Calvin Harris' earnings were $66 million last year ... for pushing buttons!

Turns out this DJ knows all the right buttons to push and my radio dial has found his music many times without my knowing it. Calvin Harris is able to manipulate emotions through his medium of electronic dance music much the way Walter-White-type chemists have done with MDMA. He certainly has his magical fingers in many honey pots and has recently been seen with Taylor Swift leaving fans of both musicians salivating in anticipation of their break-up song while fearful of an ill-advised collaboration similar to John Mayer and Katy Perry's Who You Love.

Dick Costolo, Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams and Biz Stone of Twitter
So what can Twitter learn from Calvin Harris? 

It needs to reconnect on an emotional level with its users. The Twitter experience has yet to evolve to capture a sense of intimacy now that the party has grown in number, leaving its members wandering about with their hands by their sides. Calvin Harris knows what buttons to push to get those hands in the air. He adds new wrinkles and chronically innovates to build on what's familiar to his audience to lead them back to those heightened, intimate experiences that drew them in in the first place ... I feel so close to you right now, it's a force field / I wear my heart upon my sleeve like a big deal ... Twitter should listen to him.