It’s not until the logistics of the thing begin to give you pause that the spell breaks. But it’s usually just a small crack at first and years of denail might follow because it’s magic after all and magic does not need to follow the rules. Also there is fear you might be forgotten and although I am the opposite of Catholic, I believe this same type of fear is involved in filling the seats every Sunday.
I can’t remember how old I was. Grade four maybe when I began to investigate the improbabilities of Santa. My brother always asked for snow for Christmas and he’d get a clear plastic bag full of fake snow shoved into his stocking year after year. On the bag was printed, very clearly and in my mother’s hand, the word S N O W. Which got me thinking. But that year I got skiis and I forgot to disbelieve until the next year when Santa’s existence was a very hot topic in my circle of friends. Based on my earlier findings, I decided to ask for Santa’s autograph and called a meeting during which I instructed all my friends to do the same.
My request was not honoured and I was insulted. But I got on the phone and found that ALL of my friends’ parents had forged Santa's signature. And poorly I suppose because that was it. We knew.
I kept the game up though and it became a bit of a stand-off. I remember my sister, one year older than me, went right up to our parents that very Christmas and said very clearly and meaningfully, “Thank YOU.”
I have one friend who told her daughter the truth starting with the Easter Bunny. Tucking her small child into bed the night before Easter she felt compelled to tell the truth and I cannot say with certainty whether wine was involved. This is what she said to her daughter: I am the Easter Bunny. The child, obviously too young to hear the truth in these matters replied, wide-eyed: For the WHOLE WORLD?
Last night I picked my 19-year-old daughter up at the train station. She’d been on the train for three days, since Alberta, where she has been studying at an agricultural school for the past year. She had hundreds of pounds of tools and clothes and her saddle in seven large, misshapen suitcases. Good thing I brought the dolly. So there we were huffing and puffing and crying and laughing across Front Street to the car. I hope that little hour hardens into nostalgia. But you never know. Sometimes it’s the little things that last forever.
Hope it’s a significant Christmas for you all and that you make the most of the new year. Be brave and tell the truth. Eat real food, not too much, plants mostly. Work hard. And hope for wonderful things.
It three o’clock in the morning. Must be a full moon because the sky’s glowing already. Usually I just ride these few wide awake hours by myself but tonight I’m up and I’m not tired but I’m something.
I have a worry list that I usually lie in bed and work my way through on nights like these. I never really know who’s in first place until I see who’s in first place. And then I try to figure out how I can help. Sometimes I don’t even get through the first one and it’s not because I fall asleep or anything luxurious like that, it’s just that sometimes I am unable to help. I cannot solve global warming or Stefan at work’s daughter’s illness. Sometimes compassion and love are not enough and I have to move on to number two. But sometimes number two is that we’re out of coffee filters and I remember the press my sister gave me last Christmas and sail on to number three. Worst is when there’s a crowd but no lineup. Sometimes it’s the entire population of the USA, a uniformed man in North Korea, sometimes is refugees including a boy on a beach, and sometimes I worry about the drug addicts who will die because they don’t have safe injection sites, kids who aren’t drug addicts but will die because they feel like experimenting, and then I see that orange-headed fool who is supposed to be the most powerful man in the world and doesn’t even know the geography of his own planet and who thinks nothing of lying his head off.
But he’s in my lineup by mistake, I think, until it’s his turn.
He pretends not to care, squints at the horizon. He turns his face toward me and I can see his lips working until they form a tiny hole from which these words come. “Nobody likes me,” he says, almost looking me in the eye. “How can I get people to like me?”
This is not real. This is a collection of thoughts that I am playing with so I say, “too late,” and then I banish him to a faraway land that is completely unpopulated and can sustain the blow because there’s a remote possibility that Kim Jong Un might be in my lineup as well and watching and listening to these events unfold.
I am beyond pretending to be what I am not and when he asked during my interview I told the Creative Director that I’d never written scripts before, had never done anything for radio or TV, but he seemed to forget and gave me a 30 second commercial to write, which I did in no time and with something close to wild abandon, and it turned out fine. Then he asked for a story board and although I’ve heard of these things, I didn’t know exactly what they were or how to make one so I googled it and that worked out just fine, too. So you can see why I love my job mostly. And you can see what makes a great Creative Director.
Also gifs. I can make gifs. When you consider gifs were invented in 1987 this is nothing to really show off about, and they’re a cinch, but so is pastry and risotto and I’m still pretty show offy about those, too, and expect a certain level (very high) of enthusiasm from those I cook for. I will try to put a gif in a blog for entertainment (mine) purposes, but until then, a little something.
GIF was honored as a “word of the year” in 2012, and its inventor, Steve Wilhite, was given a lifetime achievement award.
Because the G in GIF stands for Graphics, common linguistics would tell you the G is a G sound. As in Graphics. But no says Steve Wilhite, and he should know because he invented the gif and so whatever he says goes. It’s a soft g like Jethro just to clear things up once and for all.
And I love him all over again. What a performance. What a venue. What a musician. What a poet. What a genius. And he’s like your friend. Funny and weird and if you didn’t see it, see it. I couldn’t think of the song he’d end with. I couldn’t think of the one he left out. I knew something great was coming but I couldn’t think of what it would be.
Full disclosure. Mostly. The reason I am awake at 3 am is that I had my third ever end-of-the-world dream. Which is where all that bomb-y stuff came from a few paragraphs ago. I hardly ever remember my dreams but when I do it’s forever. Here’s hoping that was the final in the trilogy because they’re terrifying. But dreams are so weird. I hate it when people tell me their dreams and I never tell mine unless they’re short and funny and even then I usually just tell people I wake up with.
But dreams are weird. The severity of this one, and believe me it had all the right wrong stuff, was somewhat diffused because it was in the form of a gif. No kidding.
The gym in the morning is different from the gym at any other time. This is true in part because I am different in the morning than at any other time but it’s also true because when I go in the morning I use the change room and shower afterwards, and then go directly to work, red and puffing. This involves deciding what to wear the night before and no changing my mind which involves not looking in the mirror – at least not in that big full length trick one they’ve got leaning against the wall just before you leave the gym. If you paid attention to that mirror you’d just go home and go to bed likely with a cookie or even a cake. It’s unfair and once I get a little stronger I intend to turn that thing around or possibly just hide it all together.
Which reminds me. Did I tell you what I did after sitting in the car morning after morning waiting for my son – who always said yes I’m right behind you mom – to actually get in the car so I could drive him to school? I knew what held him up and it was that big mirror we had in the hallway which I removed and when he looked for himself the next time he instead found a chalk drawn frame approximating the size of the vanished mirror with these words scrawled inside: YOU LOOK FINE.
It remained like that for years. I have since put the mirror back but you can still see the edges of the chalk one behind it because I put it up a little crooked on purpose.
But back to the gym. I usually have the dressing room to myself and I’m always relieved, but once in a while somebody’s there and we pretend not to mind although it changes everything. It’s like having a quiet, unpredictable stranger in your house. When she walked into the change room this morning, this woman could have caught me in any number of awkward positions, but she caught me engaging in what looked like a post-workout stretch. I was dressed, my hair was dry and I was basically ready to go but I had one foot on a wooden bench and the other way back on the floor, my body arched and twisted in that stomach in chest out kind of way and I was really, really stretching. Or so it seemed. But it wasn’t a post workout stretch at all. I was actually trying to stretch my pants which must have shrunk in the wash because I can’t think the other thing right now in case I end up in bed with cakes.
With my new hours, ten to six, going to the gym in the morning’s a cinch and pretty soon I hope those pants will fit again without the rigamarole. Self improvement is on – restraint and courage are my new things – and I’m actually going to get a hair cut this weekend too although I seriously dislike and almost hate the thought of it. I've put it off for about as long as I can and for once I'd like to get a haircut before I start hacking away on my own. Not sure where I’ll go but if anyone has any suggestions I’m all ears. Oh dear. No. No ears please, I always say, and don’t make me look startled either. Then I cross my fingers for an hour, pay a couple of hundred bucks, and run like hell outta there, red, puffing, and startled.
I am out of the retail ad game for good I hope. No longer do I have to craft word and image together to convince someone to buy more sweaters. Instead I am doing cool things at ZoomerMedia which has free parking, very good coffee, and people who get me. I am Design and Copy Director, which I like very much.
ZoomerMedia is really something. How did I not know? Two radio stations, one classical and lofty and appropriate for some of the time and one with oldies I find myself singing along to. I wish they’d play Jack White or Tom Waits or Uriah Heep, but they DO play ELO and Roy Orbison, Joe Cocker, Ray Charles, The Kinks and also Big Band every Sunday Night which is perfect.
There’s also a three-day event every June (and this is the 18th year) called IdeaCity and that’s the pitch I worked on in the first place. It’s hosted by Moses Znaimer and I hope I get to go to this because it’s fascinating. You can check out past talks at Ideacity.com. It’s like TED but also not like TED.
ALSO and very exciting they are bringing back Speaker’s Corner. For those of you unfamiliar, Speakers’ Corner was a television series that aired weekly from 1990 to 2008, featuring numerous short segments on a variety of topics as recorded by members of the general public in the form of rants, shout-outs, jokes, music performances, etc. The show was an example of Moses Znaimer’s philosophy of interactive broadcasting, and essentially created what some 21st-century media outlets would retroactively label as a precursor to YouTube.
The then-unknown Barenaked Ladies received their first widespread publicity by performing their future hit single “Be My Yoko Ono” in the Speakers’ Corner booth before a live show at The Rivoli in early 1991.
I don’t know when it’s coming back but it will be right here in Liberty Village at the Zoomerplex which I thought sounded pretentious at first but now I don’t. There’s so much going on here that it really deserves the -plex.
I have another party interested in my book.
That’s what I tried last time. Spent all day every day looking and sending and hoping.
A friend recently told me that all the applications are scanned by bots and if these mindless things don’t find the words they are programmed to get excited about, all your hard work and optimism and clever, beautiful sentences are for naught, which seems unfair and incorrect, and is likely exactly true.
I never stopped thinking about one of the jobs I applied for before Sears. I even mentioned it in this blog when I was still hopeful and in the dark about the bots. But I heard nothing, Sears came to the rescue, thank goodness, and that was that.
Day after Sears, I went through my files and found the pdf I'd saved from this job I didn't get but kept thinking about. The reply button was ineffective of course, but I got the guy’s name, found him on Linkedin, guessed his email address and wrote him a short note, casual to the extreme. The last sentence was Please have a look at my site for my design/art direction/writing portfolio and read the blog if you feel like it. The subject line was Did I miss the boat? The first sentence was Because I just got off a sinking one.
He called me in, gave me a pitch to work on, and 24 hours later he said We work 10 to 6 around here see you Monday.
I just finished my first week, signed a contract, and it’s perfect.
If you thought this blog was going to be about not burning bridges, you have to change the way you think. Starting today. I am also starting today and here’s why. Because sometimes things people say are misleading. For instance, just because someones says they will definitely hire you, you cannot just go for a long walk and then come home and bake cookies. Because on about the seventh cookie you will come to the realization that this person did not name a date or an exact anything.
As you can probably guess, this happened to me only yesterday and today I dislike practically everyone. Except cookies. Cookies are my friends.
I was texting someone about what happened with Sears and I said something about the next morning. “Tommorrow morning...” I said, but auto correct took over and decided I’d be better off doing someting else the next day. It suggested the following: “Tomorrow mourning.” But I was fine yesterday. If auto-correct is so perfect, it should have known enough to take shock, denial, and false promises (aka misleading things people say) into account. What it should have said is “Day after tomorrow mourning” because then it would have been telling the complete and utter truth.
I know they were only my peeps for a little while and that I was so busy I didn’t really get to know any of them. Yet, I miss them in a big way.
When you walk downhill, you gotta walk back up. This is not meant to be philosophical. It is only a fact. That big hill at the end of Brimley Road is the hill in question and I did it again today. Exercising is a lot like making lists for me and walking is perfect right now. Even though my gym is seldom crowded, I just need to be alone for a bit. Didn’t even bring the dog.
Those stupid job sites have some of the same stupid jobs that were there when I was looking last stupid time.
Oatmeal cookies made with 100% brown sugar are better than doing what they tell you which is using way more white sugar than brown. Also do you know that story about somebody having lunch at Nordstroms in New York and they order a cookie? They love this cookie so much that they ask the waiter for the recipe and I suppose he obliges because when they look at their bill, it seems they were charged $250 as in two hundred and fifty dollars for said receipe. It is likely an urban legend, but like twins, urban legends have to start somewhere so maybe it’s true. Anyway. I have that recipe for those legendary chocolate chip cookies. That’s right.
Did I tell you I had some serious interest in my novel in August? That was really why my fingers were cross as I typed a blog back then. Not beause of a job. In the end though, they didn’t make me an offer. Because of my relative anonymity online, they said. Mostly, anyway. “Fair or not,” the final correspondence went, “an author has to work almost as hard on their presence as they do on their writing these days.” Sigh. “Keep at it,” they said, “and work to grow your audience.”
So pretty soon you’ll be able to tune into the social media site of your choice and see me cartwheel and/or do five minutes of stand-up comedy.
Just kidding. At least about the cartwheels.
I sent my manuscript out somewhere else last Friday. Gak.
Once when my youngest child was sick at home and I was at work, I texted her about something I would pick up for her on the way home. Auto-correct did its magic and I ended up telling her I would bring her home a pony. She was just young enough to believe it, too.
Funny when you know you’re doing something for the last time, you try to pay so much attention so you’ll remember. so that later on, when nostalgia kicks in, you’ve got something to feed it.
I made a typo in that sentence the first time. It went like this: Here’s another list about nostalgia regarding my very short stink at Sears.
Declining maturity is a thing.
I better get a job soon because of the cookies. And I have a secret about peanut butter ones that may apply to other flavours as well. I didn’t have enough butter, only about half of what I needed, so I used mayonnaise to make up the difference. Yes. And they are the very best without a doubt cookies not only that I’ve ever made but that I’ve ever had in general.
Once my sister was battling butter tarts and as a preventative measure she put them in the freezer. You can tell right away that she wasn’t very earnest in her attempt and that giving them away would have been a better choice. Because little did she know that frozen butter tarts are way better than not frozen butter tarts. I seldom buy butter tarts because it’s so hard to find good ones, but when I do, they go straight into the freezer if there’s any left.
How come people and companies sell cookies for more than a dollar a piece and they’re never very good. Wait. How come people buy cookies for more than a dollar a piece and they’re never very good. You can feel the sugar like sand, there’s too much of it, and the texture is not right. Also there’s some weird annoying odd taste that will likely attribute to your death.
(Well that wasn't very nostalgic. I guess the truth of the matter is that I wasn’t at Sears long enough to develop nostalgia and I guess I got all the end-of-an-era re department stores out of my system a couple of blogs ago.)
I’ve got places to go and people to see. I don’t know who they are yet but I’m working on it in a confident and determined way, because I know nothing is going to fall into my lap. Except maybe crumbs.
Of course I knew. We all did. But we didn’t know know.
And then a meeting was called for eleven this morning and we still didn’t know. But the second she started to speak we knew because her very first syllable got caught in her throat.
I am talking about the acting CEO of Sears, Becky Penrice, who I respect whole-heartedly – not only for her grace, humour, courage and everything she did to try to save Sears – but because although her throat didn’t give her a break the entire time, she kept herself together while delivering a very difficult message to a whole bunch people who wanted her to say the exact opposite.
And now it’s all over the news and everybody knows and I am home writing this blog because I think it matters and also because there’s nowhere else I need to be just now.
I read somewhere last week that one of the best things you can do to make your blog more successful is to write shorter blogs. Which I thought sounded stupid and I kept on typing approximately 120 wpm until well past bedtime.
But today, I think I’ll take the advice. And a nice long walk.
I am going to work tomorrow as usual, yet I can’t seem to stop myself from searching for a podcast to listen to at the gym in the afternoon. Something funny. Or maybe it’ll be that soundtrack from Game Of Thrones that’s always on at work. That was always on at work.
During this brief period of uncertainty – this weekend of mixed tenses and I don’t only mean the grammar kind – let me share with you a few things I learned about Sears and some of the secrets and cool stuff inside that big seven-story building still sporting the ancient logo, which is telling in and of itself.
Of course I knew Sears was in trouble when I signed the contract, but so was I, and since then I’ve been walking through those doors every day – usually before 7 in the morning and seldom leaving before 7 in the evening – whistling both ways.
It’s been great.
Kind of like the meeting the acting CEO called on Thursday when her ifs turned into whens and hope was suddenly not in the atmosphere or even the stratosphere. Then she gave everybody Friday afternoon off and they actually clapped.
My own hands were too busy doing The Scream.
When I started end of August, the place was a-bustle. These people were movers and shakers. The environment was energetic. Totally happening. I didn’t know at the time that the energy was actually panic and that the movement was actually a one-step-forward, two-steps-back kind of thing. Mostly.
But I was happy to discover they were solid, intelligent people, deliciously disfunctional at times, and mostly not very afraid of hard work. I never saw anyone’s hands actually tied but there were indications that this was the case some or most of the time.
It’s an actual department store where I am.
(Please note: Due to fluctuating tenses, grammar lessons are unavailable until further notice).
There are escalators running up and down all seven floors all the time. I work in the boys’ department on the fifth floor. The escalator runs right in front of me and at 10:00 on a Tuesday evening (print night!) when I’m all alone in there it’s kind of weird and spooky and curious. Also the fact that I’m all alone on print night is kind of weird and spooky and curious and more.
I teetered around in this very store when I was a little kid, maybe right over there, or beside my mother on the escalator overwhelmed for those few seconds when you floated down and could see the great spance ahead like a huge sparkling landscape.
My mother bought our sewing machine at Sears (it may have been called Simpsons at the time) and I’ve been sewing ever since. Two of my kids are sewing ninjas and they learned on the same machine. My parents also bought the kitchen table there as well as the diningroom table, the silverware, the dinnerware all of which are likely still in use somewhere. The light fixtures. Couches. Beds and pillows and towels and sheets and shower curtains. Our fridge and stove and when my mother returned to work, her first purchase was a dishwasher – a gift to herself – and at the same time she picked up a guitar for us kids and I don’t think my brother has put a guitar down for more than five minutes at a time ever since.
The fifth floor where I work is half studio and half storage and if you want to foray, you pretty much have to drop acorns and follow them back to your desk or at least take your phone so you can get rescued. The place is huge. There are racks and racks of clothing, mostly samples, and rows of furniture. Stackable things are very much stacked. Pillows and blankets and duvets and vases and lamps and you probably get the picture. Looks like your spare bedroom or at least like mine.
There’s a room full of standing Judys that look like a real live crowd at first and the sight of it takes your breath away it’s so wildly strange. They are likely from the very beginning and I suppose Sears custom-made clothing back then because there’s a slew of ancient sewing machines too. But the Judys are extraordinary. There are dozens of them and they are shaped like real people. There are short, fat ones. And I mean with actual rolls of “fat”. Tall skinny ones, tall fat ones, average ones. Men. Women. Kids. And even a couple of babies hanging headless above the rest. It’s kind of like a scene out of a John Wyndham novel. I’m going to wander back there on Tuesday and get another eyeful. I want to remember them. I'll build them into a story someday and depending on the news, someday could be tomorrow.
I wonder if anybody at Sears has asked that vital question and if so, what the answer was, and whether anything will come of it. I hope I’m wrong but I think it might be too late for answers and even if there are any, they will likely just get absorbed into the storied walls where S. S. Kresge, Alvah Curtis Roebuck, Robert Simpson, and Richard Warren Sears had a good idea once.
My three take-aways from all of this:
Adversity inspires me. I feel blogs, stories and maybe even a new novel coming on.
People inspire me. When I was sitting on the fifth floor in the boys’ department at first I wasn’t sure but now I know that I got what I wished for which was “working with people who are brave and surprising and wise and dazzling.” It was short but it was sweet.
No matter what, I’m happy. There’s ping pong, dark roast, beaches and hikes, you guys, love, hope and wonder and no matter what happens I’m open, excited, and likely available.
Also I have no patience, cannot endure insincerity, and dislike driving at night. I can’t stay awake during movies and if I actually want to go watch one I have multiple espressos first which is a problem in itself and I must sit in the aisle seat. Used to be shots of bourbon before (and during) movies. You should have seen Apocalypse Then.
A lesson on relativity: Long, long ago I told my kids that when I’m old, I’m getting a bird. A smart one with heart, I told them. Colourful. Sweet. A good conversationalist. My youngest considered this a moment and said “so go get one” as in you’re already old. Gak.
I am a good listener until I either get bored or detect nonsence and then it’s over and there’s no getting me back. My eyes may be on you but I am well into a Ray Charles song in my head which reminds me. Somebody at work the other day told me I look like Barbara Streisand. That’s a new one. I was flattered, of course, until something occurred to me. I wanted to shout after her “do you mean back then?” gasp “or NOW?!!?”
Have you googled her lately? Some questions are best left unanswered.
I have developed an ability to glare very meaningfully and am practicing shutting people up before they even start. There might be a bit of a sorcerer in me after all because this is often extremely effective.
I was speaking with someone else at work (did I mention I work with interesting people?) who, it turns out, has the same problem as me with haircuts and he does his own, quite successfully. The source of his discomfort, I think, is the chair and is clostrophobia. Mine is multi-phobia. Those places are full of bad lighting, the walls are covered with poorly angled, faulty mirrors, and people cackle in foreign languages making me thankful I am unilingual because I get the feeling that whatever they are laughing about would hurt my feelings. There’s nothing salon-ish, parlour-ish or beauy-ish about it.
Remember those grammar lessons I was offering so long ago? I would like to add eloqution lessons to the offer and I’d like the TTC to take me up on it. No matter how urgent it seems, I can’t make out what they’re saying through those loudspeakers. And what I CAN hear seems unnecessary so maybe they need an editor too and I’m available on a part-time basis. We don’t need to work so hard so early in the morning to hear that a problem on the Sheppard line has been solved and trains are running normally again. To me these little stories are about as necessary as the ones that start with I had a dream last night and. Also I would like to find out who said mind the gap and why, when there are gaps just like it and worse all over the world. Likely some non-hiker from Britain. Some worrywort. An indoor cat.
There is a very good eloquitionist on line 2 at around 6 every day and the guy means well and everything, but I re-read the same sentence about 20 times while he tries to be entertaining in a nearly sad way. And just one more small thing. They should not say the doors will open on the right, because this is a 360 degree world and it’s confusing. The doors will open where the platform is and if you can’t figure that out, you’re probably the reason they say mind the gap.
There are two Winners stores within cartwheeling distance of my new work. Good thing I’m a girl of my word.
I like up north and the way water looks in the distance and the way you can sometimes see the curve of the earth in the horizon if the lake’s wide enough. I am perfect in a canoe. I love the solitude it offers and I can live off the view. But I like downtown, too, and I fall in love hundreds of times a day – not always with people – but it makes me wonder what it is when you catch somebody’s eye in a crowd and it’s like you trade or share something. This is not romantic, it’s human and nice and rare and it makes you feel and then they’re gone and gravity becomes regular again and off you go to work.
I always think people are accidentally beautiful until they look at their reflection in the subway window and adjust something. The spell ends right there for me because I understand that their look is contrived and planned and it’s not really them after all, it’s somebody they saw in a magazine once or online somewhere.
A lovely young girl at my work the other day apologized out loud to all of us at large I guess for not wearing makeup the day before because she’d been in such a hurry to catch her train or something. I didn’t say anything but give me a few more weeks and the same circumstances and I’ll say something alright. God. All she has to be sorry for is her superficiality and her stupidity in this manner. What makes her think any of us even notice/care. What does she have to be sorry for? She needs to give her head a shake and let things fall where they may.
Life is beautiful and buoyant and things like that don’t matter a whit, if that’s even a word.
There are some things I hope I never get used to. Opening sentences for instance. Running. Hummingbirds. Shoes. Pink Floyd. Irises. My front door opening. My overwhelming happiness when I see whichever of my friends or family is there waiting to tell me something, show me something, or hear about something I have to say, even if they are humming Ray Charles in their head.
There are geese flying over my house right now and they sound like a pack of hounds.
Fall again, landing with a thud or a sparkle depending on the light. Time marches on. Just ask the geese.
Do you remember the Staples commercial where a woman is walking along a sidewalk and a leaf falls in front of her and she points at it and screams in a blood-curdling way? God that was good. How do I know it was good? I still remember it, yes, but the fact that I still remember the brand is what makes it truly great. And that was probably ten years ago.
A few months ago I was invited to collaborate on a pitch for a major retailer. We didn’t get it but we should have. The CD I worked with just sent me the link and their new stuff for fall is based on our pitch but they messed it all up and it’s awful. It’s a well-known brand and they deserve to be called out on this but judging by the work, they’ll lose some ground anyway, and that’s good enough for me. They need a writer who can write, an art director with taste, and a photographer who understands light. Duh.
There go the geese again.
I like surprises. I like it when people surprise me. I like it when they are different from what I expect. I like it when the quiet person who I think must be terribly unhappy suddenly says something hilarious. He becomes my new best friend. Just like when the sweet person says something bitchy or even very mean. I am devoted.
I say this because I have a new boss and she is as surprising as anyone I’ve ever known. Also I think I surprise her. I float around work happy, busy, and just the other day I caught myself whistling.
It’s a contract position and I’m creating and building a retail flyer. I’m also art directing off figure, which I love. This means making six pairs of socks look beautiful on the page. Or arranging five mismatched panties so they look pretty and you’d buy them and also you would turn the page expecting more and you’d actually get more. There are stylists and photographers and they are surprising and careful and dedicated and they all understand light and have good taste. Imagine that.
The woman who hired me, hereinafter referred to as “she” or “A”, art directs the on figure and she runs one of the most active sets I’ve seen. Everybody is into it, excited, and that’s because she invites collaboration. She’s fast and great and the photographer understands everything, the models clearly like her, and the shots are exceptional. She sends me five or six of the best and always one of them lands with a sparkle into the layout and it’s perfect.
I have to cram lots of things on the page sometimes and it’s still got to look great. Last-minute changes, copy details, and French too. This may not sound very glamorous but I don’t care about that. It’s challenging and fun and if we can make a flyer that’s attractive and arranged so that it’s easy to turn the page and on every spread there’s a few surprises, we win.
Also I have to cram roughly a million appliances onto four small pages as well as all the information about each one. Sometimes I roll my eyes but then I remember, always, that there are people out there who are seriously looking for a fridge at a certain price point and they need to know if it comes in white and is energy-efficient and whether it will fit in their space and how much money they can save and if delivery is extra. So I’m careful and try to make it easy for them.
I knew A from where I used to work. She was largely misunderstood because those people, at least the ones at the very top, don’t like or look for surprises.
This little surprise got to work right away. I emailed A the day after I was laid off. I said when you need help, I’m available.
She emailed me on a Thursday night, six weeks later. I was in bed and had to squint at the screen, unknit my brows, not die, and climb out of bed all at once. Talk about a multi-tasker.
I didn’t want to seem over eager so I counted to one before I answered.
So I got a nice contract and now I’m in the thick of things in a great big brand new studio. I have a million names to remember, lots of space including several floors to navigate, and yesterday while I was looking for the water cooler, I came across a fitness room.
Yup. It’s amazing and I’m that girl in jeans and running shoes who doesn’t look like she’s going to work but is. Also I am quite possibly annoyingly happy.
I like downtown, especially in the morning, and I like the TTC. Most people are polite and small and not eating. Many of them seem to be sleeping soundly like in a fairytale, until they suddenly stand up, twirl, and float away.
I have very much missed writing this blog. Also I have missed going to the gym in the afternoon. Also musical chairs in the backyard according to the first beams of sunlight on a lovely morning. But I have not missed the job sites, the phone calls, sprinting from creditors, and consecutive disappointment.
And so out with the old and into these gorgeous fall days with their hard shadows and saturated colours.
I’ll be posting every weekend from now on and thanks for sticking with me.
Do you remember “broken telephone”? How you would tell somebody there was cake for dessert and by the time it got to the last guy, he was practically in tears because of what happened to the groundhog.
There’s a sign I see every day and it says “Illegally parked cars will be fine” but that’s not what they mean, and if you park there you’d likely be hit out of luck.
One little letter can make a shocking difference.
For instance how about a hotel that boasts “Indoor Poo”. What is this? The eighteen hundreds?
There’s an opposite-from-charming little restaurant at the end of Queen Street East. You can get a peanut butter sandwich for next to nothing and a beer to go with it for about the same although this is not something I would recommend. I don’t even know what its name is but it’s known as the GOOF. The sign used to say GOOD FOOD but two O’s and both D’s burned out so there you have it. The restaurant is average but it’s always full and I think that’s because it’s a cool story and fun to say.
One more thing on this and then I’ll drop it unless I think of any more. We have a Catholic school near us. Of course it’s closed for the summer and I’m sure the words on the sign once said HAVE A SAFE SUMMER, or maybe even a LITERARY summer, or something else nice and Catholic, but what it actually says now is HAVE A LIT SUMMER. It’s been like that since the end of June. Clearly, the grownups involved do not urbandictionary.
is a case of entire missing words. Talk about a mix up! Makes you think I only went to one bar one time when there are people out there who may have come across my blog and coffee is coming out of their noses right this very second.
Remember the slogan Enquiring Minds Want to Know? It was a brilliant marketing move. Inaccurate, of course, because the word enquiring should have been replaced with enabling, entrapped, enraging, envious, enemy, entombed, endotoxic, or end-o-everything. And so on.
But back to the theme of missing or incorrect letters, if Enquiring was spelled with an “I”, as I had hoped, the list would have been endless. And funnier. I know this for certain because I actually made one, and although my level of uncertainty was acute while doing so, I kept on going until finally I googled it and I am indeed glad I inquired.
It's no wonder we make mistakes.
My eldest daughter used to refer to her only child friends, whom she no doubt envied, as “lonely” child.
My Auntie Irene – who broke her wrist when I was a kid and as a result invented pantyhose long before Haynes or whoever took credit for it – was a master at getting things just slightly wrong. “Stimulated” pearls, for instance, which is basically accurate, and the favoured trees in her neighbourhood, the “popular” tree.
For instance who decided I’m richer than I think? My auto-correct just changed richer to richard which is slightly more accurate. I’m richard than I think. LOL.
Why do people pretend that cashmere feels good against their skin even in summer when I know from actual experience that it feels like it’s eating you.
Not only why do movie stars get so much money, but why do they do stupid commercials as well.
Why are frozen french fries even allowed?
Besides all of them being excellent glare-ers and eye-rollers, why is Grey’s Anatomy still on.
How come the president of the United States is on vacation when he really should be learning how to do his job, like taking an appropriate stand against intolerance and extremism for instance. Etc.
I am tired of headlines that start with Tensions Mount and wish there were some that started with flavours of ice cream instead but not Rocky Road or Death by Anything.
How about this tagline for a body shop? Satisfaction guaranteed or your dent back.
Nobody makes fun of Donald Trump’s hair any more. Is it because all the good jokes are used up or is it because we now know that his hair is the least weird thing about him?
Also who said we should just do it. I mean what if we all just did it? Imagine that for a minute or even twenty seconds. What a fiasco.
My 19-year-old-son was in the kitchen a few minutes ago eating spaghetti sauce out of a pot on the stove and we were yelling between two rooms about some good news we both had earlier in the day and he said “thanks for the genes” and I think it might be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.
BTW I have a telephone interview on Thursday for a very interesting job opportunity.
There were others too, but none quite so fitting, and none as good as my all time fave I’m With Stupid which shows declining maturity, I know, and is probably the reason I’m not getting any call backs.
I’ve applied for some really good jobs lately and I’m hopeful. But why do they open with words like “required immediately” and “urgently needed” and “current opening”, and close with apply by dates that are so far in the future I can’t imagine what kind of shape I’ll be in by then.
Good opportunities have been few and far between until very recently. I hope this trend continues and I believe it will. I’m feeling optimistic, strong, and highly employable. Also necessity is a factor.
You may think I am unqualified and possibly delusional but one job that I applied for only yesterday was for a Digital Storyteller/Research Assistant at The University of Toronto. Imagine that. Another interesting one was for Creative Copywriter and Content Editor at a magazine geared to those of us 45+ years of age. Awesome opportunity. Great audience.
At the gym yesterday I listened to a podcast on which a therapist was interviewed. He’s 70 and really funny. Phil Stutz is his name if you want to look him up. He’s got a new book out which deals with the self-sabotaging monster within us all – the one that suddenly perks up and says something that puts all kinds of holes in your day and then you go and eat ice cream straight from the carton using a utensil rather than a proper spoon.
This little bastard exists on ice cream and other shoved-in food and he is only a habit.
And speaking of habits, I find myself acting, in social situations, as if I am on an interview. My posture is admirable, my vocabulary correct, and I’m far too polite, considerate, and subdued. Also I am grateful to my friends for their time.
Thank you for your consideration,
It took me a long time to jump on the Starbucks bandwagon but only a second to fall off, which goes to show you and all the advertising people out there that there’s no such thing as brand loyalty, especially when there’s been a chip growing on my shoulder ever since I hopped on said bandwagon.
Right there you can see I should have listened to the inner me who knew all along that spending money in that reckless manner was stupid and short-sighted. But the other me, the vain one wearing tall blue suede boots was the one with the money and the one with the money is also the one with the clout. This applies to forever and always.
In my case and probably yours, the brands are the ones with the clout. They try to convince us that we need them when really they need us. They try to persuade us to buy something that flatters us, yes, but flatters them more. I have been there and I have bought that. Just look at my closet. Yet here I sit at my computer wearing very unlovely shorts and a plain black tee that I may or may not have been wearing since Tuesday or even Monday now that I think about it.
As far as I can see, brands need to talk to us as equals even though they aren’t as equal as we are. Also I don’t mind paying for quality but within reason. I have no intention of being a brand-slut ever again. Beauty is only skin deep and we need to be smarter and stop acting like any of this stuff matters.
David Ogilvy is excused from my temporary disdain (which could all be forgotten with a single job offer) because he was at least up front about it.
I can’t find the quote and this is very unprofessional blogging indeed but it’s somewhere in David Ogilvy’s Confessions Of An Advertising Man and it goes something like this: I hope you enjoy your xxxx as much as I enjoyed advertising it.
And while we’re being unprofessional anyway, here’s a story about Mr. Ogilvy, from the same book, and I can’t find it either.
Walking to work one morning, Mr. Ogilvy came across a man begging for money. The man stood on a New York City street, holding a sign on which was written, “I am blind.”
Dropping some cash into the man’s cup, Ogilvy couldn’t help noticing that his was the first contribution of the day. Pausing a moment in the late-April air to think, Ogilvy asked the man’s permission to change some wording on the sign.
On his way home after work, Ogilvy came across the beggar again. To his amusement, Ogilvy saw that the cup was now overflowing with donations.
How had Ogilvy improved the beggar’s success? He added four words aimed at eliciting emotion from New York’s winter-weary passersby: “It is spring and I am blind.”
I have a few questions about this story that I’m only just asking now that I’m formatting the text. Was there any research done? Did Mr. Ogilvy happen to notice what the blind man’s cup looked like at the END of the previous day? Of course it was empty in the morning on his way to work. What time does he leave for work anyway? Even Ogilvy’s trying to pull one over.
And my last question: Where do you think a good intersection is around here for this sort of thing?
I was gasping on the stairmaster, squinting at the words going across the tv screen in front of me when I read that Dustin Hoffman just turned 80 and then Glen Campbell died. This made me feel a number of things all at once. I got an ache from remembering Hook and By The Time I Get To Phoenix which made me forget the other aches, and before I knew it my time was up.
BEHAVIOUR I HAVE NOTICED IN OTHERS AS THEY AGE
BEHAVIOURS I HAVE NOTICED IN MYSELF AS I BECOME LESS YOUNG
It occurs to me that I’ve simply got too much stuff, yet another hurdle in this summer of discontent which, people tell me, will make me stronger in the long run. If this is true, perhaps I should have taken that roofing job after all.
I’m trying to sell some things that I am embarrassed to have purchased in the first place. Which brings me to the hats. There are also quite a lot of shoes, both individually and in pairs. Raincoats that Christopher Robin could barely get away with, cashmere sweaters in every colour and neckline (many with the tags still on!), a brand new as in still-in-the-box bread maker, eight recently expired jars of yeast, and a gorgeous maxi-length Canada Goose coat that fit me for five minutes back when I liked bright red.
Also lightly used ski equipment for a family of five. Two cats, three cat beds. More tea than you and I could ever drink and travel cups, bone china tea sets, and mugs for everyone as well as tea-brewing pots, flasks, devices, contraptions, gizmos and gadgets from all the best places and then some.
Perhaps the most shameful item up for sale is a pair of extremely swanky actual roller derby Rebel roller skates, size 9.5 and brand spanking new, purchased for $250 immediately after I saw the Ellen Page movie, Whip It for the first time. Also a matching helmet, packaging intact.
All for sale in the name of minimalism, and the mortgage.
Up until this point I have been a model of trustworthiness. I’ve been conscientious, straightforward and incorruptible. Ask anybody. I have been very selective with my lies and have consistently rounded down on my invoices. I have paid many bills on time and often in full. But things are changing.
Back in the old days, as in pre-six-weeks-ago, I was devoted to certain brands. (While we’re on the subject, I know it’s time to graduate from weeks to those other units but I don’t have the stomach for it just now.) Anyway. Back then I was devoted to real olive oil, anything Diesel, and I paid $38 for a tiny bottle of shampoo without a thought and another $38 for matching conditioner. When I liked something and it came very close to fitting, I bought it in all available colours and styles especially shoes, boots, and storage containers.
I was an advertiser’s dream in that me and my money were not very attached to one another.
Also, I sheepishly admit that I was a sucker for packaging and the product that boasted the best exterior design won my temporary and temperamental affection and teetered on my shelves, or landed in my cupboards, drawers, closets, and storage containers.
I have paid a full dollar for each egg in a twelve pack, I have purchased Mennonite bread time and again, and bought fresh organic strawberries worth more per ounce than the cheese and the wine combined, and they certainly were no bargain either. But those days are gone and none too soon either.
I am buying cheap shampoo and although the difference is noticeable, I can cope as long as the humidex remains on the low side. I shop at the store with yellow bags where there are no frills, no round grapes, and no fresh figs but there are lots of bananas in various stages of ripeness, and very good prices on things like peanut butter, rudely shaped carrots, and bright white bread.
I do not listen to or read advertisements these days because as you can tell I’ve had trouble with sales resistance in the past and there’s always the chance of relapse. Also I unsubscribed from the constant bing bing bing of emails directing me to countless countdowns and endless ways to save on summer essentials even though they know full well that a three hundred dollar trampoline is about as essential as a headache.
I have a SUBSCRIBE button now and it’s lime green and significant. Please subscribe! All it means to you is that you will automatically be alerted when there’s something new to read, as opposed to me sending individual emails. But to me, it means much more and it may delay or even eliminate the need for a lime green DONATE NOW button. But seriously. With every subscriber, my worth goes up and I can charge advertisers accordingly. Not that any individual or corporation is knocking my door down yet, but with your help and a great deal of persistence on my part, they might just ring the bell.
I’ve been researching, learning, studying trends and acquiring clear, accurate, informed perspectives regarding marketing and advertising. I am seeking facts that back up my intuition and I’m finding them, to be sure, but I am also uncovering a few delicate and trembling truths about human nature and diversity and repercussion to name a few and I will let these secrets out in future posts.
There are google bots that detect links which also increase site value. I’ve been trying to add links from the very beginning, before I even knew bots were a thing, but this learning curve is a slippery slope and it’s slow going. I’ve established the look and I know where the links will go. I promise they will be funny, informative, short, shocking, and definitely worth the click – but it’s making the connection from your mouse to the source of such mind-blowing enlightenment that’s keeping me up nights.
That and the minimizing.
I’ve been showing unbridled enthusiasm, insight, experience, a killer portfolio, and skills up to here. I’ve been polite rather than pushy, engaged but not married, interested but not a pest. I’ve been patient, cooperative, and accommodating. And in spite of what you must think, I’ve been a model of modesty, all things considered. I do not gossip and I’m careful with time – both mine and yours. I have opinions, and I share them when appropriate, even if they’re different from yours, which I listen to with all of my heart.
Maybe I should just learn to be aloof. I could take lessons from any one of the people who ignore my blog posts, or from either of my cats. It would be perfect.
Aloof people don’t require food of any sort. They always have the latest ithing and they get front row tickets to everything you like. They wear the most exquisite clothes and seem genuinely surprised when you notice. Also they beat you at ping pong on their second “try”, even though you play all the time and had a secret lesson once.
Yes, I think I’ll give it a whirl. I’ll be calling my aloofest friends first. You know who you are.
Of course I could go the other way and learn to be pushy, which would have come in handy this morning at the bank, but it would mean unlearning the things I value most so I’ll keep that one up my sleeve for now.
I am careful selecting the jobs I apply for, and although my standards are not quite as high as they were at first, I only apply for jobs that I sincerely want and that I would do well at. This excludes anything involving extreme temperatures or cartwheels. Also no baking or cooking of any sort.
I know I’m a catch and I am consistently certain that I am highly-suitable-to-perfect for each job I apply for, and I am not used to this kind of serial disappointment. I’ve had offers but none have met my most stringent (only) requirement which is fair compensation.
Clearly, I need a new approach.
I hope it will get me working with people who want to hear the truth about the p’s and q’s and are also keenly interested in other things I know. People who are brave and surprising and wise and dazzling. People who can teach me a thing or two about advertising and humanity not necessarily in that order, people who can deliver a wicked punchline and/or know a word that rhymes with orange. People who think farting shoes are funny and want to know how I did it.
The stupid job site said there were 25 joke writing jobs but there was actually only a single sort-of one, and it was repeated seven times in the three given pages. It went like this: “SCREENWRITER To Create Funny Sticker Briefs Reacting To TECHNOLOGY EVENTS” and it was explained like this: “An awesome opportunity to get in at the ground floor of a revolution in delivering news to Gen Y and Z consumers. Our iOS/Android app delivers breaking news you care about in a comic book-inspired format featuring a digital clone of yourself. Users create their own personalized digital clone, called a Genie, and then add a brain to their Genie (with interests such as World News, Tech, Sports, Politics, Humor, etc). Based off those interests, your Genie sends you breaking news and reacts to each piece of news in a unique and fun way...”
It went on and on and my eyes kept rolling. There was a list of Important Notes followed by a list of Interview Processes. The final sentence, and please remember what I told you I googled, went like this: “This is a remote position but candidates must be located within the United States” at which point my eyes rolled right into my head.
*Sigh* – Obviously this job site cannot recognize jokes even when they are one.
Also obviously everybody thinks Gen Y and Z consumers are idiots. Why on earth would anyone want to get their news in this ridiculous, very unfunny way?
The internet has torn the printed word to shreds and it’ll never be the same.
I remember the sound of The Toronto Star landing on our front porch when I was a kid and it was the privilege of whoever got to it first to unfurl it, take the section of their liking, and slap the rest of it down on the coffee table for the next guy. When I was small the pages were too big to handle and I used to spread the paper open on the floor and either sit cross legged in front of it or lay down flat on my stomach so that I was sort of on top of it and everybody had to step over me. I remember the stink of the ink and the unpleasant sensation of inky fingers on newsprint pages.
I also remember lively dinnertime conversations, the joy of being the one to solve a difficult crossword clue (we completed every single puzzle), finding out what movie was playing where and when, eagerly digesting the delicious intimacy of Dear Abby, scouring the sales for the best price on the runners I was dying for, finding out where I could get a job to pay for them, and hoping I’d find THE comic, out of the twenty or so on the most coveted page of all, that would make everybody laugh.
We used to cut coupons at Exhibition time because you could get five cents off admission and you were allowed to make reasonable facsimiles and all the kids in the neighbourhood sat at our kitchen table doing exactly that for days and days until we each had a stack of them and not only was admission free, but some of the rides accepted them too, and when we finally went to the Ex in August (no parents!) the bunch of us would scream around on free rides all day long. I remember still being dizzy when I climbed onto the GO Train in the dark.
Books are different. My copy of The Great Gatsby, Rebecca, and To Kill A Mockingbird have practically disintegrated, so I’ve purchased digital versions of them all, as well as many of my other favourites. Reading in bed on a backlit device is far superior to juggling a paperback and a book light.
I’ve never bought a digital novel without pre-loving its printed predecessor but, shame on me, I haven’t bought a newspaper in a very long time.
I bought each of my children the newspaper from the day they were born, and I hope someday they will think that’s cool but right now I’m pretty sure they see newspapers as packing material and that’s largely on me because I didn’t have them delivered to the door like my mother did. It’s a different world – there’s no such thing as kids going to the Ex by themselves any more – and I didn’t do lots of things my mother did.
I’m generalizing here but I find the Toronto-based online newspapers ugly and unfriendly. You know I’m devoted to graphic design and typography and a real stickler about the rules which were developed over time and for very good reason. Why, then, do the online newspapers break every rule devised for the good of the reader. Seriously. What on earth are they thinking? ARE they thinking?
Maybe they’ve been indulging in the trend toward hiring interns. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but the word intern belongs to the medical profession first and I’m pretty sure medical interns stood back and learned by observation. Take Grey’s Anatomy for instance. Those interns stand around for years before they are allowed to do any hands-on work whatsoever, and even then, it’s only because they’re sleeping with the chief surgeon or didn’t snitch about some big plot-line.
But I don’t want to get on the interns’ case here except for one more thing, and it’s directed more at the people hiring these millennials for some pretty juicy jobs it seems, and for little or no compensation.
I believe that the successful employee/employer relationship is 100% symbiotic and requires mutual respect and common vision. I believe in a happy and creative working environment where everyone counts. A ping pong table is not necessary but if my stay is to be a long one, I know where the deals are and I can help to set it up.
But that’s another matter entirely.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his first inaugural address, said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Obviously he had the means to pay his bills.
Seems to me the biggest thing in marketing today is healthy living. It has become practically a verb (grammar lessons still available – see first post!) and Lifestyling now includes smudging, decluttering, fasting, and being honest with yourself while standing on one foot and holding your breath. Wait – that last one might be for hiccups or swimmer’s ear – or maybe it’s yoga.
Last night we found stacks of old magazines at the end of somebody’s driveway. I admired the home owner’s decluttering clout, scooped as many as I could manage, and scurried back home to read.
According to McCall’s, the Magazine of Togetherness, in 1966 they didn’t care much about Lifestyling. They smoked bravely, ate all the red meat they could get their hands on and had chocolate with practically everything. They entertained all the time, always had one for the road and probably even one more for their baby. They didn’t give a whit about pollution. They didn’t wear seatbelts but it looks like they may have worn corsets because you don’t get those tiny waists from what they were up to all the time.
Life Magazine’s On The Moon issue from August, 1969, was the biggest coup of the night. Stellar journalism, and some of the most interesting Letters to the Editors I’ve ever read.
I am a typographer at heart and by trade, and I know the struggle it must have been to set all that type – which was likely done on a Digiset – the first typesetting machine that worked with digitally assembled (bitmap) typefaces.
Typesetters were artists, writers, word-lovers, grammarians, and above all they were perfectionists because I haven’t come across a widow yet, even though three years earlier David Ogilvy said widows should not necessarily be avoided because the white space they allowed encouraged the reader to keep reading. I am happy to report that Life Magazine ignored his advice, as did I. Every single rule of typography is honoured in those pages, including even the most difficult of hyphenation standards, a feat that impresses me to the point of adoration.
A few notable advertisements from Life’s lunar issue:
Out of this world.
– Sony Tape Recorders
It’s ugly, but it gets you there.
– Volkswagen (shown: lunar vehicle)
Brillo offers you the moon.
– Brillo Household Cleaner
I kept reading – articles about Nixon and Vietnam – an article entitled Birds Fit For a Future King which was a double page spread full of black and white photos rather like a yearbook but the pictured “birds” were a selection of possible girlfriends for the Prince of Wales. So you see why I couldn’t put it down. Imagine my surprise when it was suddenly 12:42 a.m. but then I got that half-wonderful half-awful realization that I don’t really need to get up early anyway, and I kept on reading.
At the time of the lunar landing – July of 1969 – we were in New York State, at a rented cottage on Scroon Lake. My mom and dad, my brother and sister, and my cousin and her parents. I was little but I remember everything. We were outside but could hear my dad and Uncle Sammy hollering in front of the TV as if landing on the moon was something they had done. Our dog Snoopy was there, too, and Aunt Margaret, my father’s cousin from Ireland, the only grown-up I ever knew who did not use her cutlery properly. Funny little things you remember. I had a camera around my neck that I bought for ten cents at a yard sale. My bathing suit was pink. I felt love for the dog but was uneasy around him as well. My mother and Aunt made sandwiches, which they quartered. I remember leaning against the porch, looking out over the lake, everyone I loved was close and safe, there was a knot in my stomach, and something spectacular and very new and beyond my comprehension was underway.
I am not sure how much longer this between jobs thing is going to be even remotely funny – but if you’re with me – I’m willing to give it one more go.
I am an optimist by nature after all, and there are cardinals in the yard, big clusters of purple flowers in the garden over which big clusters of butterflies swirl, and strips of brand new vegetables that I’m willing to wrestle the groundhogs for. Also a pumpkin patch which is just a big brown square right now but before you know it, it will be full of big orange circles and by that time, surely, I will have landed the job of my dreams.
I just hope dream job won’t be carving said pumpkins, although I do have a certain talent in that area, and they usually turn out looking like a former Canadian prime minister. The best was Jean Chrétien but Diefenbaker wasn’t too shabby either.
Once it was Johnny Cash but nobody could see the resemblance except me.
I have a new relationship with my phone and I don’t approve. I am like a 13-year-old girl. As you know, I am waiting for a response from every advertising agency, design studio, and printer in the city – or the 905 area and beyond – to call me for an interview. Also my mood of late seems dependent upon reactions to this blog. I feel vulnerable and I think you understand why.
I apply for jobs in a careful, professional manner nearly every time. Really I do. Except when I’m in an altered state because of a compliment regarding my blog.
Some people think what I write is pretty funny, and when they tell me this I forget to be humble, and I act like I think I’m some sort of comic genius. Which clearly I am not. On a recent online job application for instance, in the field beside COMPANY, I went and put EXCELLENT!
And that was just the beginning.
I did get an email from their human resources department while I was at the gym later that day and the adrenaline it caused allowed me to perform like the big boys for a few minutes but it was a false alarm. All it said was: Hi Sherry! Thanks for your interest in working with us! If you would like to apply for a position, please re-submit the standard application form.
People in HR are fairly no-nonsense I am learning.
Even David Ogilvy couldn’t do that.
Of course he did lots of other great things, and one of them was to write books about advertising. The slim paperback that I have – its cover soft as suede from use – contains secrets and formulas and studies and results and proof and lists and strategies and rules from the master.
Confessions of an Advertising Man was published in 1963, the year in which Easy Bake Ovens and Fruit Loops hit the shelves, as well as Instamatic Cameras and the Studebaker Wagonaire which had so many windows it was practically see-through. The book is without sex or scandal. It depicts the dazzling, illustrious, magnificent Madison Avenue Advertising scene, complete with Don Drapers, Joans, Rogers, and Peggys.
Mr. Ogilvy made no secret of the fact that he wrote his books to attract more business to his agency and to condition the market to a public offering of his shares. He was your dad, only smarter. I wonder what things he might have written if copywriting hadn’t monopolized his literary talents.
Some of the greats including Hemingway, William Faulkner, and George Bernard Shaw tried their hand at copywriting – but they were without success – probably because they were thinking about other things.
I make no secret that I’m writing this blog to get work but it’s also something more. I’m working on a subscribe button, and I hope you do. Also please share generously because imagine if this works. I am educating myself about social media and also SEO and how to hide secret words within the copy because no matter how good your blog is, success is apparently wholly dependent upon your ability to strategically plant single words or strings of them within your copy in order to attract googlers or bingers or duckduckgoers. I find this deliciously challenging and I know I’ll do it invisibly and really well, and I’m optimistic and very excited to see how far this can go.
But I promise success won’t go to my head. It will go directly into my bank account.
I may have mentioned the mortgage etc. already, but I really mustdo better, and fairly quickly. As in soon. Like in the next few hours.
I have applied for jobs, followed leads from associates, sent resumes and smooth-as-butter cover letters, carefully tailored portfolio links, and this link, but I’m stumped and I wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something and if so, just which of these two things is it trying to say. That I should give the joke cookies a whirl – or – that I am going to win the lottery.
I have a colossal appetite for success and my creative potency is practically lethal just now – in a good way – but how on earth do I put it to use? Do I need to go out and actually pound the pavement when I’ve been pounding the keyboard for three weeks straight instead?
What will I wear?
I’ve always been the as-long-as-it’s-black-and-fairly-clean-and-you-can’t-see-the-wrinkles kind of fashionista – but my standards of late have become low.
Among other things, I’ve let my former eyebrows fade right intomy forehead.
If you’ve been to my podcast link you know that I mention industry leaders and I’ve got two of my heroes lined up. I fully intend to ask them how on earth they did it. I will badger them kindly until they give away their secrets. I will hypnotize them if I have to but this will be a last resort. I’m a good listener after all, I am curious and interested, and a better than average horse whisperer as well. Also there will be beer and we all know what that does to your secrets.
One of these esteemed people hired me when I was a typographer during the time when desktop publishing first reared its ugly head and traditional typography was on its way out. Because of his devotion to, and respect for typography – as a historical art form as well as a modern tool of communication – and his appreciation for my devotion and respect for same, we produced some of the most beautiful, post-traditional typography in the world. We really did.
So I want to talk to him about lots of things and also tell him something that’s been on my chest for years and years.
The other person is a wildly interesting commercial film and video producer, still hard at it after more than 30 amazing, successful years. You will want to hear what she has to say about every little thing.
I used to work with a guy who entered the workplace as if he were walking onto a stage. He’d lay his briefcase flat on his desk, pause, and open it carefully, ceremoniously, as if it were a violin and he, Vivaldi. But what he reached for was not a violin. It was a pica ruler – the typographer’s essential tool.
This past winter, long after my excellent years as a typographer, I was working alone late at night and a pica ruler suddenly became necessary again. I found it like a fossil, tucked into the back of a rarely used drawer at work and I put it to use right away – industriously, nimbly, and thankfully – but not to measure points, picas, or agates. I used it to scrape my windshield after one doozie of an ice storm and it was perfect.
A pica ruler is much like any metal ruler except it measures points, picas, and agates. On the zero end there is a steel semi-circle which aids in achieving an accurate reading.
I suppose, from a distance and without glasses, or possibly after a quantity of alcohol during an eclipse, this mighty tool could appear slightly phallic. If you were looking for it. Maybe. However, I have held a pica ruler in my hand under all those conditions and more, and never once did it cross my mind.
But when I googled pica ruler I had to turn off safe search.
Also I am being very careful about what I wish for and I think you should be, too. Exceedingly so. Cautious, even. I no longer think if only in a wistful way, and it used to keep me upnights.
Wishing is for wallflowers and this, friends, is no world for a wallflower. Wishing doesn’t get you anywhere and if only-ing leads exactly nowhere as well, unless you are a Rapunzel or Snow White kind of person, in which case you’re pretty much doomed anyway.
Sometimes – Monday to Friday to be specific – I used to wish I didn’t have to go to work and look at me now on a Wednesday morning. Don’t get me wrong. I love this blog and I want to do it forever, but I do not under-value or misunderstand the importance of cash flow.
I am highly motivated and passionate, although often unorthodox in my approach. I do smart creative that sells and I could be out the door in seconds for the right offer or even a questionable one. Seriously. I could be out the door in seconds. I might have to make a quick stop to get my eyebrows back but after that I’ll be there directly.
There are few things that irk me more than false enthusiasm. It’s the first thing I would abolish in advertising in particular, andhuman nature in general.
I just got back from the coffee drive-thru. You know the one. Bythe time my order-taker finished greeting me, I no longer wanted coffee or to be part of the human race. In spite of my blatant I-refuse-to-play-this-game attitude, I heard him say it all over again to the driver behind me. Which got me thinking about authenticity and intellectual honesty and all the great work I want to do.
I know they don’t call them the want ads anymore. They’re called job sites and they’re horrible especially when there’s so many interesting reviews about books or movies opening at a theatre near you. There’s recipes attached to the most beautiful step-by-step photographs right up to dinnertime. There’s old friends on facebook, people you don’t even know on facebook, how to get rid of wrinkles and do-it-yourself kimchi and pictures of tiny houses that I’d trade this big old lug for in a heartbeat. There’s how much sleep you need, what you should weigh, why you shouldn’t care what you weigh, the benefits of raw kale and what to do about the ensuing, excruciating bloat – a problem of the past for those of us who work at home.
And you can noodle into any of these topics (and more!) until the front door opens, followed by a big friendly hello, and you’re still in your gym clothes.
Eventually, I remember why I’m sitting at my computer half way through a weekday and I head back to the job sites. Several employment agencies post the same job on the same site and the repetition is inexact and intensely annoying. I will most certainly dismiss SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER GREEN ACRES PETFOOD when it’s on page 1 of 10 but SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER GREEN ACRES PETFOOD is quite appealing when it’s on page 10 of 10. But they are a fast-growing company looking for a highly efficient, organized and resourceful graphic designer with interactive/web design experience, as well as responsive, cross-browser, and web app expertise and did you know you can propagate cacti in your own home??!!??
I was Creative Lead on an on-going project for a client who filed for bankruptcy protection and although we kept working, none of our files were shipped or printed.
It was a tough job and we were a tough bunch, each of us resolute and fearless. The work was demanding, the client was panicky and irrational – and the time-lines were excruciating – but I was enthusiastic, in excellent company, and I sincerely did not want it to end.
When the news of this client’s bankruptcy broke, the demoralizing hallway rumours finally came to pass and along with many others on the team, I was given a letter of termination, stating my last day would be in five months. I’m a freelancer and this kind of notice is unheard of.
It is a gift.
The following week the work was halted – and I got the feeling they were going to ask for the gift back – so I dodged the Creative Director for three days and on the morning of the fourth, she found me.
I tiptoed in every morning breathless and empty-handed – and tiptoed out every evening with a few of my things – so that when I finally got the bad news I wouldn’t have to return to my desk and make a spectacle of myself saying goodbye.
I am intensely lousy at goodbyes. You’ve never seen anything like it. I resemble something between Celine Dion and a pug – an image I would rather spare my coworkers – some of whom I will love forever.
All I brought into work those four days was my phone and I kept it in my back pocket the way my kids do. I not only left my purse in the car each day but also the car keys. It rained on day two and I ran through it like one of those people who don’t look out the window, my umbrella closed and dry on the passenger’s seat.
I was committed.
Of course I knew what was coming and I had it all planned. I would leave the CDs office fully composed and, maintaining a reasonable stride, walk out of the building to my car as if I were simply retrieving a forgotten item. Then I’d zoom away forever.
All of which I did.
I’ll meet with my friends once the swelling goes down, and say goodbye properly.
Ideally this will be after I get a fab job, or at least some colour.
Of course depending on how the next few days go there’s a chance I’ll be able to tell them that I am busy modernizing the Nike swoosh, coming up with a new license plate tagline for the Government of Ontario, and deciding on the exact percentage the Blue Jays should increase their magenta.
Oh My God I lost my job and I don’t want another one.
What I really want to do is write.
I think of other things I could do for money and I have no shortage of ideas, but none of them are very good, or very suitable. (I continue to resent the way my sister had to put her phone down to laugh when I suggested personal organizer.)
Then I thought joke writer but imagine the headache getting them on late-night. Maybe I’ll get them printed and offer a tasty (chocolate!) alternative to the fortune cookie.
But then what?
Teach grammar, or yodelling, or take up long-distance running? But then there’s the mortgage and the wine and university
Then I thought BLOG! – a word I wish didn’t sound contagious but I hope is – and it’s beyond exciting! What took me so long?
I will post regularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays to start, try not to overuse GIFs, and refrain from swearing and sarcasm, none of which are difficult in the least.
I used to design things for print – I have been responsible for the concept, art direction, design, copywriting, execution, coordination, production, quality control and brand-keeping for some of Canada’s largest retail brands – but now everything’s digital and I missed the boat. I think I could still flag it down and hop on, but it’s just that a pixel’s not the same as a dot of ink and a retina display, however awesome dude, doesn’t please me nearly as much as the rich feel of printed matter.
Advertising has always been about persuasion, it’s just that it used to be funny and beautiful. It was a clever, well-crafted ArtForm that had the power to stop you in your tracks, sometimes with butterflies, and redirect your vision.
It can still be clever, of course, and it can be funny and beautiful as well. But something is lost and I think it’s the butterflies, and I want to help restore them.
I love design and the entire creative process – the rush of impending deadlines, the way things sometimes land on the page exactly where they belong, the way colours fight until they don’t. It’s also very much knowing when to say when. Add a couple of words like seasoning, or sometimes so much copy you can’t imagine how until it happens. Gasp. And it’s perfect.
So yes, when the right gig comes along – contract or freelance – I’ll be all over it. It is of note that my creative potency is at an all-time high right now in case anybody’s interested. Seriously. No job too big or too small.
In the meantime all I want to do is write.
I’ve written lots of short stories which are light and airy and fun to read when they’re not dark and deadly. Some of them will make it into the fiction section of this blog once I build up my confidence and/or alcohol intake. Those of you who know me understand that this has always been my secret hope and my secret fear. Also I have a novel that I’m this close to sending out, and all I want to do is keep writing.
So that’s what I’ll do.
I’ll write. Yodel. Run. Think up jokes. Learn how to GIF and eventually I’ll get savvy in other ways, too, and the usual social icons will show up, one at a time and likely with unrestrained ado.
I feel humble but I’m strong. Scared but inspired.
And in the end if I move you, give you even a hint of butterflies, make you laugh or give you pause, I’ve made the right choice.