Tagged: observations

Closing the Catalog on Sears

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See those awesome overalls I’m modeling? I bought those from the Sears catalog. In 1984. I still mow my lawn in them, saw wood in them, suck up my leaves in them and do any sort of hard work that’ll get me good and dirty and feeling revived in them. You can’t kill ’em. Oh sure, they have grass stains and paint stains and some other stains you don’t need to know about that just won’t come out in the wash. They have a million pockets for tools and screws and nails, a box cutter, a pencil for measuring, a level, some string a candy bar and my phone. There’s probably some saw dust living deep in one of those pockets from back when I bought them to build a deck behind my house in Atlanta. Yeah, washing ’em won’t free those particles–pockets are too deep. It’s ok. I like how they smell.

What I’m getting at is my trusty, dusty overalls remind me, every time I stuff my body into them, of the quality Sears was known for. Sure, I could have found a pair of decent work pants somewhere else but I specifically ordered them from Sears because I knew they’d be up to the task, and another task, and another and another and scores more.

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Oh folks blame Sears demise on not keeping up with Walmart or Amazon and that may be true, in part. But I look at it another way. Maybe shoppers who are too impatient or not discriminating enough or just plain cheap made the decision to exchange quality for price and expediency. I’m sure had I bought those overalls someplace else I’d be on my fourth pair by now, not my fourth decade with the same ones. Yes, the stores became dated and dumpy and less inviting, and for that I blame inept management that was tone deaf to the changing marketplace and consumer tastes and reacted way too late.

But I’m one to reward quality with loyalty, I don’t care how dumpy your store it. We always bought Kenmore appliances and they never failed us. Last year we moved out of a house we lived in for 25 years and the Kenmore fridge we bought for it in 1992 was still working like new when we gave a little goodbye tap and thanked it for its service on our way out. 

When our watch batteries run down, we don’t buy one at Walmart and install it ourselves. We stop by the little watch repair desk at our closest Sears and let a guy with thick glasses and the sure hands of an expert do the job. It only cost a couple of bucks more to have it done right. Oh, when my Sears is shuttered I’ll go to the local watch repair shop because I like to support neighborhood businesses, but the Sears guy had me at “take two minutes!” And it did.

If my watch battery dies while I’m mowing the lawn, I just might show up at the repair shop in those Sears overalls…with the deep pockets that have been keeping my stuff safe and handy since 1984. I’ll reach way down, yank out my dead timepiece..bought at the store whose time has passed.

 

 

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Mis- (baby)Carriage Of Justice

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How much industrial strength does it really take to transport a person that may weigh between 9 and 20 pounds? If a weekend trip to the mall is any indication, I would deduce the answer falls somewhere between a Hummer and steam freighter.

As my son and I attempted to walk, leisurely, between stores, we were confronted by a combination convoy, flotilla of conveyances bearing down on us, building up a head of steam provided by a snarling mob of bipeds all muttering to no one in particular, “why couldn’t I be sterile?”

paquinbabyIt’s really difficult to fathom why it takes such structural might to push a little kid around. But I get it, because this is not a new story. My kids were born in 1984 and 1988 in Atlanta. Back then, in the height of Yuppy arrogance, young couples starting their families somehow became obnoxious social climbers. Here’s how it went down.

 

maxitaxiBack then there were two main choices of strollers: The $70 Maxi Taxi, which did the job quite well and conveniently folded by just squeezing a plastic bar just under the push handle.

 

apricaThen there was the $300 Aprica. At least that what it cost back then. This was overkill to the max. Indeed, it made the Maxi Taxi look like a Mini Pushcart. Big and blue and a million adjustments and fancy wheels and compartments. We chose the Maxi Taxi because, well, we weren’t insecure assholes who felt they needed to make some sort of statement about our station in life with an exorbitantly priced way to tote our tiny little kid. Indeed, when we encountered an “Aprica couple” they would eye our Maxi Taxi with the same disdain one might show nutritional information on a McDonalds menu.

The situation has only gotten worse with even more elaborate strollers, carriages and prams plying the sidewalks and walkways. They’re so immense I expect to see one some day with a snow plow stuck on the front and a tow hook in the rear just to help the couple who were suckered into buying the beasts amortize the cost of the things by using them to make a few bucks taking on odd jobs.

There is justice however. This actually happened just this Saturday. As my son and I sat in our car about to leave the mall, we watch a couple with a medium sized stroller approach their vehicle. stroller1There was no kid in the stroller. In fact, a stuffed bear occupied the kid’s seat and the mom was holding the little one. The dumb dad was of zero help as mom struggled to get the kid in the car. No, dumb dad had put a sweet drink in the stroller’s cupholder. Wait! Why you need a cupholder in a stroller? Oh yeah, so parents can park their lattes! Anyway, A couple of hornets were attracted to the drink and hovered around. Dumb dad was also cowardly dad and he took refuge behind the next car while mom flailed away. She was good! While wimpy husband cowered, she managed to pop the trunk and fold the stroller after putting the kid in the child seat inside. But she wasn’t that good. She tossed the stroller in the trunk…with both hornets still sucking on the soft drink. Closes the lid and gets in the car. So does dumb dad. A moment later, the doors fly open as both parents flee the bees, leaving poor little kid inside, defenseless. Now…if only they saved the dough and bought a sensible stroller— without a cupholder.

Oh No! I’m A Consultant!

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This summer I became something I never thought I would be, or want to be. In fact, I’d never before used the word in a positive light, let alone aspire to become one. Yes…I’ve become a..a..a..consultant!

Some of you may have seen the really flattering news release, tweets and Linkedin posts from the kind folks at Detroit public relations firm Franco PR announcing my engagement with them as an “Integrated Media Consultant.” That’s lofty language for someone with a lotta miles on them in a position to perhaps share some guidance and insight based on 45 years of experience in journalism, broadcasting, social media and corporate public relations.

So why the initial turned up nose at the word “consultant?” To be honest, it started at my very first television job as a weekend weather guy at KGUN-TV in Tucson, Arizona, where I worked while earning my MA in journalism back in the late 1970’s. Our station had a kickass staff of reporters and videographers and actually paid better than our competition. The problem was, our ratings were awful–last in the market. How bad were they? If my memory serves me, reruns of MASH had a 40 share. The share for our early newscast, which followed directly after MASH was a measly 18. Now those were the days before remotes. Viewers had to actually get up off their chairs or sofas, walk over to the TV and switch channels. That’s how much they hated us. What to do? Call in consultants!

My station employed a pair of consultants–a fired news director and a woman who’s fashion sense could only be described, kindly, as, um, “industrial.” The first thing these idiots did was destroy everyone’s confidence. They spooked our anchor guy so much and made him so self-conscious he actually wrote himself a reminder on the set that said, “Don’t over-emote, don’t over gesture, don’t touch your pee-pee.” He’s not an anchor man anymore.

In my case they were borderline anti-Semitic. One of my signature things to say when only a light rain was forecast was to use the word “spritz.” My audience loved it since it’s not a word often heard in southern Arizona which made it memorable. When I was recognized on the street somewhere, often a viewer would smile and ask, “hey Ed, is it  gonna spritz today?” It’s always helpful to have your own buzzword.  But not according to our genius consultants. I was told to drop “spritz” because, they said, “it’s just too..um..Eastern!” I countered, “do you mean it’s too..um..Jewish?” The dynamic duo could only look at their Kmart shoes and stammer..”uh..no, of course not..um…why don’t we talk about your wardrobe?”

Ah..wardrobe! The woman consultant who’s favorite designer may have been Coleman, as in tents, deigned to offer advice on how to appear on television. Her sense of fashion leaned towards what someone like, oh, Oleg Cassini may have categorized as “tres fooking boring!” Then they told me to act “natural.” When I explained that I was, they offered, “well, try acting naturally a different way!” Hey..thanks! You morons.

The upshot of all this great advice? Our ratings sunk even lower, and they were fired. So was our news director and shortly thereafter, I was lucky enough to escape after landing a job with the then, up and coming CNN to help them launch their second network, then known as CNN2 and now HLN.

Well, that was my first, scarring experience with consultants and it always stayed with me. I know there are many, many fine consultants out there. I just had a bad first experience. Now it’s my turn in that position and I’m using that experience to help shape my approach. I know full well that people are always a bit suspicious of “that outside guy” and may feel threatened. I plan to be as good a listener as talker, simply offer some respectful insight into different ways of doing things, perhaps some advice and a lot of information. Use it as you wish, or not at all. Hopefully I’ll be helpful and at the least, get folks thinking and spark some creative ideas, all in the service of satisfying clients and of course, making money.

I just plan to act naturallly…in my own way. Hope it helps. 

Retirement Refinement..Two Gigs And A Splash

Ed-768x768Two years after “retiring” I now have two new jobs. Both part-time but still, it ain’t exactly lounging on the beach, or playing golf with the other alta cockers or pushing a shuffleboard stick at a condo in Florida.

Regular followers already know I’ve been contributing to Forbes.com since the end of July. Today, the super official news release  went out about my new gig…with the big boy pants title of Integrated Media Consultant at one of Detroit’s leading public relations agencies, Franco PR.

A reasonable person might ask, “what the hell’s the matter with you? You’re retired!” Let me clear that up. I retired from full-time work. I didn’t retire from wanting to use my skills, from creating, from collaborating with smart, creative, courageous people, from being excited at accomplishing something that fills me with pride and self-esteem. So now I have the best of all worlds. I’m old enough to retire from the full-time rat race but not too old to stop moving forward.

I did give full retirement a shot for about three months when I first left Fiat Chrysler but I got so bored I almost longed for a staff meeting. Almost. Well. Never. Then my series of part-time things began and that was just right.

I have just enough free time to be either of use, or annoyance to my wife and family, to go play hockey, paddle in my kayak, jump on my bike, scare myself on the ski slopes and bang on my drums and guitar and still be able to write for Forbes.com to maintain my reporting and writing chops and advise the awesome team at Franco that’s so skilled and open to new tricks..even from an old dog, who’s open to learning new things too.

A little work. A little play. Most afternoons around 3 p.m.? A tall glass of Jack on the rocks. Retirement? Nah..It’s living.

Going Gut to Gut on Labor Day at Harbor Freight

harborfreightextOn this Labor Day during this second year of my sort-of retirement I would like to announce I sometimes like to labor with my hands–making things like Jack Daniels on the rocks or a thick steak on the grill, but sometimes I’m compelled to perform actual handiwork, building something out of wood or something electrical, yardwork and repairs with tools.

There are others like me and many of them join me in the same club–the mailing list for the bestest, most awesome store for guys with guts, too-tight t-shirts, ballcaps and an active email account. Yup it’s the Harbor Freight mailing list. harborfreightcustomersEvery single week you receive two, three, four pages of coupons that offer discounts on all sorts of stuff you may never need in your life, but crap, those coupons are like catnip for men like me who just like to buy stuff that either plugs in, spins, cuts, bangs, screws or wipes. At the top of the sheet are generally three coupons offering a free item with any purchase. The free item could be a bag of rags, a little battery-powered worklight, even an electric bug swatter in the shape of a tennis racket! labor-day-coupon2012Some are items of no actual redeeming value but you are compelled to buy and item so you can redeem the coupon for the free thing. But here’s the best part, for Labor Day, a one-day coupon offering 25 percent off anything! So off I went with my magic tickets ready to score some great deals.

I needed some cheap gardening gloves, and sure as hell, there was a coupon for $1.99 a pair. Score! My wife requested the free bag of rags. Got ’em, even though I had to fight off two guys with large wrenches in their hands, accompanied, of course, by the appropriate coupons.

25off_laborday_shortNow what would I use that awesome 25 percent coupon to buy? I don’t really need any more power tools, or an ax or even an extension ladder, lathe, plastic tie-downs, tarps, welding torch or drill bits. Ah! I just bought a new bike and there waiting for me was an industrial-strength cable and lock to secure that shiny new two-wheeler. Yes! What’s 25 percent of $10.99? Doesn’t matter. 25 percent is less than 100 percent!  I also ended up buying some attachments for my rotary tool, but there was no coupon for that. Sad face.

Bottom line? The $1.99 gloves and free bag ‘o rags I came for ended up costing me a little over 18 bucks. Bet you can guess who the real tool in the store was. But Harbor Freight, I love ya. Can’t wait for next week’s coupons. I think I really need that bug-killing tennis racket.

Playing By Baseball’s Numbers–My Personal Sabremetrics

statsWith just six weeks left in the regular Major League Baseball season I’m surrendering–surrendering to the endless babble of numbers, acronyms and abbreviations known as Sabremetrics…or as I call them….”WTFetrics”

As a lifelong fan of the national pastime I was content with knowing a batter’s average, a pitchers earned run average and other stats like how many homers a guy hit, bases he stole and runs he batted in.

I get that things have moved along and we now know esoterica that help managers, owners and players supposedly make better decisions on the field and off. Therefore, I’ve decided to go with the flow and adapt this development to my own life.

I started today at noon with my midday repast. As I lifted my ham sandwich to my piehole I asked my meal mate to take some video on their phones that I could later examine to better understand what I have designated my “Lunch angle.” Could I more effortlessly ingest my ham on rye by reducing the angle at which it enters my mouth? By  adjusting my lunch angle, I might be able to keep my mouth shut longer, thereby allowing me to listen to the gossip being offered before taking another sloppy, noisy bite. I love anything that improves cognition.

Another stat I find useful is how I measure and regulate complaining. I’ve set a hard and fast limit by establishing a firm Bitch Count. When I find myself getting too whiny, I cut myself off after four complaints within an 8-hour period. Then I engage in a self-enforced cool-down cycle by swilling two fingers of Jack Daniels on the rocks. The same goes for anyone I happen to be with. Hit the Bitch Count and you’re cut off–forced to join me for happy hour until you calm down. Could take several rounds.

The one baseball stat I find mind-numbing is OBP, or on-base percentage. Here’s now the pros figure it: On Base Percentage (aka OBP, On Base Average, OBA) is a measure of how often a batter reaches base. It is approximately equal to Times on Base/Plate appearances. The full formula is OBP = (Hits + Walks + Hit by Pitch) / (At Bats + Walks + Hit by Pitch + Sacrifice Flies)

In real life one can use a similar formula to measure a person’s inability to use tact or diplomacy or Obtuse Bile Percentage. The formula would be expressed thusly as: OBP= Swear words + Corporate slang + Inappropriate hand gestures / Text messages with angry emojis + Selfish demands + Supportive References to Sean Hannity. A perfect score of 1.000 wins the designation as PTB or Perfect Trump Boor.

My final example is the fascinating, yet polarizing stat known as the WHIF…or Wife plus Husband per Issues Fought. It’s fairly self-explanatory and is considered an important predictor of future evenings bereft of connubial connection.

That’s just a start but I’m sure by the end of the season I will have established a new benchmark for UNR  or Useless Numbers Referenced. Play ball!

Track Me, Google!

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Are you upset Google can track your every move? I’ve decided I don’t care. Oh, I’m not naiive. I just look at this situation as an opportunity to have some fun. For instance, when I get in my car today to go buy some bagels, I think I’ll take a route through several church parking lots and the nearby Christian book store. Hopefully, someone at Google will catch wind of this curious route and deduce, “That Jew’s got identity issues..let’s make sure he gets ads for both the kosher deli and dating sites to find a shiksa.” I’m already married to one so Google’s already got the algorithm wrong. I wouldn’t mind knowing where I could buy a box of those tasty communion wafers, though..and a matching wine.

googletrackingI might decide to take circuitous routes to further confuse the nerds in Mountain View, Calif., say, driving to a gun range then directly to a shrink’s office and then Victoria’s Secret. I wonder what conclusions they might draw. Of course, I’m not actually getting out of my car at those places but the little “timeline” map I could call up on my phone would make a nice conversation starter while waiting in line at my ultimate destination..the pharmacy.

As a kid I became fascinated with maps when my uncle sent us a huge atlas of the U.S. that literally weighed 9 pounds. My father was an engineer so we always had pads of tracing paper around and I traced the maps of every state, learned the capitals and major cities and roads. I’m still that way.

When I traveled with my CNN crew they nicknamed me “Rand” as in mapmakers Rand McNally because I’d learn routes and cities I’d been to only once or twice. One time we were going through Findlay, Ohio..a place we hadn’t been to in five or six years, and it was lunch time. Shooter wondered out loud, “where the fuck are we gonna eat in this town?” “Oh,” I chirped. “There’s an Arby’s if you make a left here..about a mile down the road.” “No!” he yelled. “You shouldn’t  know that! Why would you?” “Well,” I replied tartly. “In case we were in Findlay during lunchtime some time.”  Yes, I believe I may have been the model for Google’s location tracking.

So it makes sense I would embrace Google’s awesome ability to basically make a map out of my life and have fun creating nonsensical itineraries just to screw with them.

To be honest, I wish technology had come along this far way back when I was an aimless teenager. Who knows? Maybe it would have helped me find myself.