The Detroit Auto Show’s Last Winter At Cobo

I’ve now endured 28 Detroit auto shows and every one of them was in the context of winter doing what winter does best. This year wasn’t actually horrible as it was only a bit cold. Since it’s January, that’s OK. If the auto show was held in, say, June, as it will be from now on, and the temperatures were in the 20’s and 30’s, that would not be OK. 

Personally, I enjoy the winter and secretly took great joy when journalists from warmer climates would crab about having to put up with a bit of snow, ice and that awesome frigid wind off the Detroit River that freeze-dried one’s bodily fluids when stepping from the parking garage to the Cobo entrance. 

In 2020 the North American International Auto Show moves to June. We’re told it’ll be bigger with far-flung locations in downtown Detroit, giving attendees more “experiences”  outside the Cobo Center walls. That sounds like progress. 

But as the show’s last winter run kicked off with media days this week, I couldn’t help leaving the floor for the last time feeling let down. I started covering the show in 1990 for CNN. That was the second year it held the prestigious “international” designation making it one of the world’s major auto shows. Automakers from around the world took the wraps off their new vehicles and, as the auto show organizers liked to crow, attracted “more than 5,000 members of the international media.”  It was absolutely show time! 

 

 

For a few years, we produced hour-long specials for CNN from the floor of the show, and in other years we did any number of recorded pieces and live shots. When I moved to the Associated Press in 2001 I ran around grabbing as many executive interviews as I could to fill the wire and as General Motors beat reporter for The Detroit News did my best to find some scoop that might land on the front page. For almost 11 years I ran the digital communications team for DaimlerChrysler/Chrysler LLC/FCA where we were on the forefront of livestreaming our reveals so the consumer could see, firsthand, our product reveals and interact on social media. 

Yes, the show got only bigger and bigger except for the down years of 2008 and 2009 during the recession and the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler when vehicle sales caved. 

But then it got smaller. Foreign automakers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Mini, Porsche, pulled out. They said the auto show didn’t serve their “core” markets or were too expensive or myriad of other excuses. The “international” auto show has become a lot less international. 

I caught my breath for a second as I approached a black hole on the massive Cobo floor. Instead of a high-tech, interactive display stuffed with shiny new vehicles, I found a dark swath of show floor real estate occupied by food vendors and some older exotic vehicles parked under the banner of a business called Envy Auto Group, which I learned is a Detroit-area dealer that sells very high-end pre-owned vehicles. Huh? But something had to fill the space once occupied by the automakers that abandoned Detroit. That black hole drilled a hole in my heart as I knew the Detroit show had regressed dangerously close to its old days as a regional event.

As I’m semi-retired and right now filing just a few stories a month for Forbes.com, I’m not certain I’ll be on the beat when the North American International Auto Show returns in June, 2020. At the least, I will probably attend the show not only out of curiosity but out of love for an industry that remains one of the most dynamic, fun, important and confounding in the world. 

My real hope is the automakers who froze out Detroit these last few winters, will warm up to the idea of returning to the Motor City…a city that sits on the banks of an international border, and whose International auto show offers a valuable showcase in the town that lives and breathes that ever-changing, wonderful invention called the automobile–in every season. 

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My Internal Battle of Auto Show Badges

Media previews are starting for the North American International Auto Show here in Detroit, and I’m about to cover my 47 billionth auto show. This time, however, I may lose track of who I am, why I am, or what I’m doing. You see, this is the first time I’ll be schlepping my laptop, wearing ugly, but comfortable shoes and trying desperately, as a short-American, to breach the wall of unreasonably taller reporters at scrums aimed at dragging a usable quote from an auto executive who would honestly rather score a free cuppa cappuccino from a competitor’s stand–all as an enterprising freelance person, in two very separate roles. 

My purple badge says I’m attached to SMDI, which is the Steel Market Development Institute–a client of Franco PR agency where I’m a freelance “integrated media consultant.” The SMDI has a rather large display on the Cobo Center concourse. If you’re there and stop by, it’s my alta cocker voice booming from the speakers voicing over some excellent videos produced by Franco explaining why advanced high-strength steel is the best material for both current and future vehicles, most notably, autonomous cars and trucks. Oh, I also lent my voice to the very, very cool virtual reality experience that takes you through steel’s case. At the North American International Auto Show, I’ll be assisting in creating new videos the client may find useful in the future. I love working with Franco’s team since they’re young, energetic, talented and no one, yet, has said to me, “so what’s the old man consultant think? Still awake? Huh?” 

If I flip over my badge, ta da! It turns green! Now I’m a journalist! The…MEDIA! I’ll be contributing stories to the Forbes.com “transportation” page. I’ll revert to how I made a living during the bulk of my career, pad and pen in hand, curiosity dialed up way past 11 covering one of the most fascinating, fast-moving, competitive beats in the world. But I’ll have to be careful. If an automakers says something about steel..uh oh…I can’t write about that. The purple side of my badge will be at odds with the green side. “Oh boy,” he purple side will say. “We’ve got a great story to tell. Too bad you can’t write about it. That must kill you!” The  green side will take a breath, nod, in its own cute little way and agree, saying “Not ethical I couldn’t possibly write about an industry that’s also paying you to promote it.” Purple is sympathetic. “Yeah..you’re just a retired guy who can’t stand acting like a retired guy. So be strong..like, er..steel!” Green is not bent by its dilemma. “Ethics is ethics. Thanks for your support,” he tells purple. “Now flip yourself over!” 

It’s gonna be a long week. But hopefully, by the end of it, I’ve done my one job to help promote steel from behind my purple badge, but also proved my journalistic mettle from behind my green badge…upholding the ethical canon that you can wear different colors to play different roles but when it comes to being ethical and honest you can’t change your stripes. 

A Leaf Blower, Winter Yardwork..and Pissing Poodles

My house backs up to an area of trees too small to be an actual forest but way too large to be called a copse of trees. I have now achieved a long-deferred goal–using “copse of trees” in a sentence. Thank you for your indulgence even though none of you had any input, nor did I seek any. 

Having, let’s say, a big, big, big bunch of trees to look at every day is a mixed blessing. On one hand, trees are wonderful, they provide shade, beauty and a place for wildlife to hang out. On the other hand, my entire property is inundated with billions of freakin’ leaves. They get into every available space the way beach sand ends up in every bodily crack. Like millions of other homeowners I rake ‘em, blow ‘em, mulch ‘em and simply deal with the dead vegetation but unlike many homeowners who do not live near such a high volume of nature’s litter bugs, the leaves never seem to stop falling or mystifyingly transport themselves on a puff wind to my exact place in life. 

The leaf thing is supposed to be one of those rites of fall. But here it is, January, and I found myself breaking out the blower on a gorgeous sunny day, for the sole purpose of propelling those bastard stragglers back into the woods where they make a useful contribution by eventually decomposing to create new soil. 

Things were going along fine when a neighbor decided her two identical little white poodles would use my front yard as public restroom. Sure. Happens all time. That’s what dogs do. But these particular pampered puffs just pissed me off while they were enjoying their own little piss. For no apparent reason, they just started yapping and jumping around and spreading their pee into the wind’s lee. At that point I hoped the owner would take control and move her menagerie along. No such luck. I then was compelled to dream up some proactive tactics to end the situation. My blower being a corded electric device, I could have spread some peanut butter on the power cable, perhaps luring the annoying, peeing, jumping yappers to take a bite which would result in a rather convincing shock, thereby creating a positive Pavlov’s Dog-type cause/effect. 

But then I discovered, rather by accident, a much more fun solution. While I had my blower, blowing, I turned to look at a car passing by and, just by dumb luck, it was the same direction as the poodle piss party and the blower sent the offenders flying! Neither the owner nor the pups were amused but I believe I may have the grin it generated plastered on my puss until at least next Thursday. 

I do enjoy yard work on a sunny winter day..especially when it includes testing the aerodynamics of a four-legged nuisance taking a leak..on my now leaf-less lawn. 

New Years Convolutions-The Week “Between”

New-Year-2019-countdown-clock-hd

This time of year I look neither behind nor ahead. I look forward to the black hole known as the week between Christmas and New Years. Many folks use the week to take a nice vacation, escape winter or embrace the season and ski or sled or skate or roll around in the snow doing their spastic squirrel routine, which often follows ingesting many ounces of Yukon Jack.

For those of us who remain home, the holiday interregnum is a time to take a look around our houses, take in all the seasonal stuff we plastered everywhere, consider, in our case, both the tree and the menorah, and saying to ourselves, “holy crap. We have to put it all away.” It’s imperative to strip one’s abode of all signs of celebration by New Years Day, lest we be labeled “Holiday Lingerers.” You know who you are. Those people who leave their Christmas lights on their houses past Easter. Guess what? The Easter bunny doesn’t appreciate being greeted by another holiday’s gear. Not only does it piss him off, he swaps out chocolate eggs for ones made of nasty carob. That’s putting all your dregs in one basket!

For those of us who also celebrate Passover, a tardy decoration takedown yields a knock at the door from an incredulous Elijah the Prophet who testily asks, “what? you couldn’t get that schmuck Morty to move your holiday chazerei?”

During normal times when we don’t have lunatic as President there’s not much news to follow either. The POTUS and family go somewhere warm, members of Congress try to remember where they actually live and the government is basically shut down..because employees are on vacation…not locked out of their jobs because the Prez is taking a Twitter tantrum, telegraphing to the world he is, in fact, dumber than any episode of any TV show involving Tom Arnold.

I normally use the week to sort my stacks of Post-it notes, doing a jigsaw puzzle that makes a picture of air, and asking family members to fill in the blank for the sentence: “When I look at my ass in a mirror it reminds me of _________.” That’s a perennial favorite and generally elicits hilarious responses such as “Trump’s head with no hair,” “Two Half Harvest Moons,” and “New Hampshire and Vermont… if their edges were a little more rounded.” I can’t wait to hear this year’s responses. Don’t worry. I won’t share them with you…unless you beg. My readers always come first.

I try not to think about work, which is easy, since I’m mostly retired. My two freelance gigs are fun, don’t take a lot of time and I work from home, which means no office gossip or backbiting. walterwhiteI did, however, spread a rumor about myself to the Walter White bobble-head on my desk that I tried to steal pens and Scotch tape from my wife’s desk. I could swear it warned me to “tread lightly.” Scared the crap out of me.

We don’t do anything on New Year’s Eve anymore because, frankly, we’ve seen a lot of old years become new years and, well, all it means is now I have to trash all my calendars and replace them with new ones. Frankly, it makes me sad to say goodbye to my “Pithy Marcel Marceau Quotes Day-By-Day” calendar. But now I can look forward to the “2019 Reasons to Rejoice the End of The Big Bang Theory” calendar. I looked ahead. January 1st? “Don’t have to go to shrink anymore to try to un-see Sheldon and Amy having sex.” 

But that’s all just me. I wish you all a wonderful 2019. Now take down that tree!

Signs of Un-Intelligent Life

I must ask you all something. Do you hang signs in your house or office? I’m not talking about signs that offer actual information or warnings like “Exit” or “Laundry” or “Joey’s Room-Stay Out!” I’m talking about signs with dopey stuff like this one like this:fishingtradesign

 Ha! Funny stuff. Well, back at ya from the eternally eye-rolling spouse with this one: missinghusband Can you just see these dueling placards decorating a special place in home populated by people so dumb, all their IQs added together couldn’t pass muster with Mensa.

I see a lot of signs since my family enjoys hunting for old stuff in antique malls. My wife finds things she can craft with. She’s incredibly inventive with how she turns something old into something new and fun. My son collects playing cards. I look for old records. What we don’t look for are dopey signs because, well, we try not to hang stupid stuff in our house which might spark a call from anyone visiting who might be worried about our sanity to call social services that might go like this: 

“Hello!”

“Yes sir. This is Morty Feid from social services. I understand you have a number of idiotic fishing signs hanging in your house.”

“Excuse me, Morty. They’re not idiotic. They’re providing valuable information regarding our regard for angling and total disregard for each other.”

“Well, Mr. Garsten. One of your neighbors gave us a call. She was concerned about your sanity.”

“Oh..you took the bait! HAHAHAHA! Bait! Get it? That should be a sign!”

MORTY HANGS UP.

Of course, not all signs pertain to fishing. Some have been created to merely convey class, or lack thereof.

Case in point, this one aimed at setting an immediate tone for visitors who need a quick pitstop: shitter

And this one, explaining why the living room may look more like a landfill: clean

I always thought this one provided nice, subtle information as to where one might clean their clothing:

laundry

Of course, it’s always nice to convey to friends just how much they mean to you when they pop over for a visit: friendship

The funny thing is, while I may see scores of signs for sale I have never once seen anyone actually buy one, or display such profundity in their homes, leading me to wonder if that’s a warning sign that one might not care to hang in their homes proof they’re a horse’s ass.

horse

 

I Grew Up With Mrs. Maisel

Marvelous-Mrs-Maisel-Season-2-Soundtrack

“So…P.S…. Gloria is getting shtupped by the Mike the apartment maintenance guy and that’s about as far as he’s going to fix her pipes!” Yeah, it’s true. Growing up in Queens in a 400 square foot garden apartment that’s the kind of stuff I’d hear every afternoon when my mother and her yenta friends drank coffee and puffed menthol Newports in our tight little kitchen while I was trying to do my homework.

As I watch the marvelous “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” it dawned on me. Holy kishka! I grew up with a posse of Mrs. Maisels–repressed Jewish housewives with potty mouths and punchlines with my kitchen as their stage and each other as the toughest audience.

There was the haughty one my brother dubbed “The Duchess.” Big hair, big makeup, big mouth and owned one of the first color TVs in the apartments so her only, coddled, child, could watch the New York Rangers games in living color. “The uniforms look better in color!” is how The Duchess explained the extravagant largesse. “Who gives a shit, it’s just hockey and he’s 12!” the rough crowd responded and in unison sipped their heavily lightened and sweetened lukewarm coffee and puffed a menthol ciggy hanging from their over-glossed lips.

Another one didn’t have a nickname, or much of an act, but she was funny anyway because she doled out her lines in a breathy stream with things like “Ooohhh…fuck the PTA. Me? Bake cookies? Oooooohhh….fuck that!” Laughs, sips, puffs.

My sort-of best friend’s mom was a cross between Totie Fields and Don Rickles. Chunky, spunky and insulting. “Hey Gert!,” she’d holler at my mother. “Where’d you get this coffee! It taste like if you dipped my Murray’s schmecky in boiling water–limp and weak!” Raucous laughs, tentative sips, hearty puffs.

My mother had her sights on a showbiz career before she got married. She was a good singer and even cut a record. We had a single copy but sadly it was one of those old style brittle records, not the later unbreakable vinyl. and eventually broke into many pieces. As the host and ringleader of the Glen Oaks Village Afternoon Friar’s Club and Coffee Klatch she kept things moving with lines like “OK ladies–I gotta make dinner and  you all smell like shit!” Good natured..and knowing giggles, last, quick sips, ciggies quickly crushed followed by loud, deep, pre-emphysema coughs.

I never really did get much homework done. As they would say in the Catskills, the floorshow was very entertaining! Plus I’d attempt to figure out trig while I had my stereo on full blast and my feet were propped up on my little desk. When I once complained to my mother the noise in the next room was distracting me from my homework, my mother took a look over at the revolving turntable, cocked her ears to hear “Helter Skelter” blasting, gave me a questioning look, then smiled…and lit up a Newport, shook her head and left me with one last gut punch punchline, “Oh Edward, you’re gonna fail that test.” Humor is always based on truth. I laughed. 

P.S. My brother’s name is Joel.

On the 8 Nights of Chanukah..Hint: No Partridges..Not Kosher

qqHanukkah oil

On the first night of Chanukah my true love gave to me..

pastrami

A sandwich of hot pastrami

 

 

On the second night of Chanukah my true love gave to me..

2 sizzling latkeslatkes

and a sandwich of hot pastrami

On the third night of Chanukah my true love gave to me..


3 types of guiltguilt

2 sizzling latkes

and a sandwich of hot pastrami

 

On the fourth night of Chanukah my true love gave to me..

rabbi_Schmanukkah_01  4 aggravations

 

3 types of guilt

2 sizzling latkes

and a sandwich of hot pastrami

On the fifth night of Chanukah my true love gave to me..

5 pouting putzes…

putz

4 aggravations

3 types of guilt

2 sizzling latkes

and a sandwich of hot pastrami

On the sixth night of Chanukah my true love gave to me..

6 cheese blintzescheeseblinz

5 pouting putzes

4 aggravations

3 types of guilt

2 sizzling latkes

and a sandwich of hot pastrami

On the seventh night of Chanukah my true love gave to me..

7 yapping yentas

yenta

6 cheese blintzes

5 pouting putzes

4 aggravations

3 types of guilt

2 sizzling latkes

and a sandwich of hot pastrami

On the eighth night of Chanukah my true love gave to me..

8 grounds for impeachment impeach-trump-pumpkin-sign

7 yapping yentas

6 cheese blintzes 

5 pouting putzes

4 aggravations

3 types of guilt

2 sizzling latkes

and a sandwich of hot pastrami

Happy Hanukkah everyone!

Happy Hanukkah Cats