27 March 2010

When the Fit Hits the Shan ... Redux

Video games and systems are the devil.

They're not from the devil, they are the devil. They know how to torture you, and bring you gifts that only your soul knows about or wants, and then you are addicted. First taste is free say the street vendors of things that shall not be mentioned, but this devil, well he charges you $59.00 for the first game, and every game thereafter. And, it only gets worse, which brings us to our cast of players.

The setting: fair Los Angeles.

The scene: two star-crossed gamers sit cross-legged in yonder bedroom and are soon to learneth that money does not grow on trees.

My boys had some allowance saved up, and I matched their funds and we purchased a video game. After church I was making lunch, and they were off in Neverland loading their new game into the XBox 360. "Dad, the cable's not working!" Walking back to their room, I found them pulling and pushing cables in the back of the tv and into the game console. "What'd you guys do? Did you break it? You know I always tell you to be careful when you put the system away; you guys always are too rough with it!" Being a sensitive, caring father, I then shook my head back and forth with a disgusted "hmmph." I pulled on some cables and rebooted the system, trying not to smack the system on its side like we used to do with our old Nintendo system.

I looked closely at the cable, and lo, said cable was indeed bent/broken and would have to be replaced. "Dad, now we have to get a new cable, and you're not going to let us get a new cable because we don't have the money!" A game controller was tossed with disgust by one brother and then the damaged cable set was dropped harshly by the other. "This sucks!" Two words that are rarely permitted in our house without suffering dire consequences; my dander was getting up, "Watch it!"

"I can't watch it, the cable's broken!" Sarcasm towards an adult, not to mention their dad! Now my nostrils are starting to flare; heart rate skyrocketing. The breathless anticipation of two little guys had run headlong into the reality of disappointment. But, I kept my patience and powder dry.

Then the boys had a terrific idea, "Wait! Let's try that other cable set to see if it works!" Huzzah! Perhaps the day is saved ... could this ersatz cable set be jury-rigged to do for the day? I watched as they scrambled about, back and forth from room to room looking for old cable sets, and then yes, they plugged things in, fiddled about, and then they got sound coming through the speakers (always a good sign), and then video image ... but only in black-n-white. ugh.

"Here, let me reboot this for you guys" said I. I grabbed the system and set it down under their desk for safety. I pushed a button. We watched the screen, then there it was. The sound that all gamers know is the end of days, the ruination of one's fun ... permanently. It's a whirring, grinding, heart-breaking sound.

"Dad!! You put it in upside down!!!! Dad!!!!"

The kids reached for the eject button as fast as human hands have ever moved. I could barely see their little arms and hands moving, they were a blur of determination to save their newest and best friend in the whole world. A tiny disk with levels to beat, nefarious characters to slay, new skills to learn, and accomplishments to accomplish in front of a virtual world of heroes and heroines to join forces with and/or rescue.

When you hear this grinding sound, you have fried your game. No coming back. I could still hear the words echoing in my mind from the 19 yr-old behind the counter with his soul patch under his lower lip, "Sir, do you want $3.00 game insurance for this game in case you bump your system while the disk is spinning?"

Of course not, I said. "That's just a revenue scam by greedy corporate types." That was telling him.

Two boys held-up the disk and looked at it (damaged disk that it now was), and then at me. "You ruined the game!!" "Dad, you broke it! Now what?!" The older one literally ran out of the house and down the steps crying. The younger one grabbed my leg, tears flowing freely already, and then he ran to my room and jumped on my bed, face down, to its furthest corner, bawling.

New XBox cable set: $39.00
Replacing XBox game: $59.00
Watching two sons meltdown: Priceless

I wasn't in any mood to take the blame (I said I was a good dad, remember?), nor did I want to open my mouth to speak afraid of what actually might come out. So, I slowly picked up my dish towel from their desk and walked back into the kitchen to finish making lunch. I put some jazz on and tried to breathe, running through what just happened in my mind. I literally didn't say a thing. I made lunch and waited. About five minutes passed and then footsteps coming up the stairs. The oldest was back in the house; good start. A couple of minutes later the youngest was back at my leg, deep sobs, face planted firmly in my side. The older one snuck in too, and he was in the big comfy chair in the kitchen.

"I told you guys that you can't be rough with your game system. It's not that rugged."

"I know dad, but you broke our game, and now we'll never get to play that game ... for like a month!" The little one still sniffling and wiping tears on my shirt, looking up at me with big eyes. The older one sad/mad/defeated from the corner: "I was really looking forward to this game more than any other game ever!" Each fix only satisfies until the next fix. It's a deadly spiral of game after game, new system after the next new game system, until finally grad school, marriage, or parenthood pries the game remote from your hands, and somewhere the devil cries "Noooo!"

After a few apologies by the three of us (yes, I finally took my portion of the blame), I told the guys that I had a gift-card with room on it to buy a new replacement game. "You're the best dad, ever!!" "Thank you, daddy! I love you!!" Jumping and cries of delight, exultation and raised triumphant arms. So maybe this deus ex machina move of mine wasn't exactly teaching them about scarce resources and the value of a buck, but I did frag their $59.00 game.

Whew ... peaks and valleys. Valleys and peaks. I'm trying to keep the guys on a level plane, but when you're 8 and 11, things are up and down, with an occasional fit thrown in for good measure, and an extra $90 from dad's wallet. It's watching your kids learn how to work through disappointments that's priceless.

24 March 2010

Boys are silly. Thank God for that.

Sometimes you come across an old photo or a home movie and you think: "My God, I'll never get this time back." But we really do have it, don't we? In our hearts, and on our desktops, and in our sepia filtered remembrances (like all good memories are) to remind us of our loved ones. Some who passed away too young (like my little brother, Chad). Some who have been missing for far too long (like my sons' great-great-uncle Ralph, missing since the Korean War). And, of course those whom we just miss and haven't seen in forever, like friends from grad school, or neighbors from a previous home, or childhood friends who are in fact closer than a brother or sister, but somehow we haven't spoken to them in 10 or 20 years. Good gawd, I sound like a Kodak commercial! (which, believe it or not, is what I shot this little bit of footage on; an old personal 5 megapixel Kodak digital camera).

I recently found this little 30-second video clip from when my boys were six and four (I think), and they just exude boyhood. Boyhood: when a scrap of throw-away cardboard box, and a towel tied into a cape, and a shoehorn for a sword can fill an hour of a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Boys are silly. Thank God for that.

18 March 2010

Ask Fats No. 1

Fats, let me ask ya:

My job is a fairly important one and so need to keep my true identity on the down low, or as the kids say, the "DL." This gig has many, many benefits and perks the likes of which are unparalleled in modern history: a private 747 (two identical planes actually) at my disposal 24/7; a beautiful antebellum manse to live in; a private chef with large staff; a staff of top-notch politicos ready to execute whatever agenda I deem fit for the next fiscal year; in addition to a "dog whisperer" to take care of the "first pooch," we call him the Dog Czar. I also get to carry a football around all day, which is kinda cool, but it's not a real football (that was confusing to me, too); it actually is a remote doohickey that helps to blow things up -- which is kinda cool too, in a Dr. Strangelove sort of way.

However, it has some serious downside. Some even say that my j-o-b is the single most powerful, important, and sometimes dangerous j-o-b in the world. Believe it or n-o-t, several of my predecessors have even been killed while holding this prestigious office -- and no, I'm not Captain of the Argentinian spelunking team or working the killing floor at the local slaughter house. Though some (Bismarck, et. al.) have compared what we do here to making sausage, it's actually more like herding cats, a bunch of nasty, ill-tempered, ungrateful cats who've forgotten what it's like to actually hold down a real job or start a company (and, yes, I am looking at a mirror when I write this, and darn it all, I look good, Fats!).

Fatty ole boy, you must realize that my position is a stresser to be sure, and as I've reached the pinnacle of this profession, I have the lion's share of that stress. For instance, I had to work real creatively with Majority Leaders in the House and Senate to come up with just the soupcon of bribery and Chicago party machinery machinations to swing votes in Lousianna and Nebraska --and that only cost the American citizenry an extra $400 million in graft. My job has prematurely aged many a President, er, Chief Executive, of this company. I mean certain of these cats before me have literally had their hair turn white, like they were Isaiah or Moses in the presence of God or a burning bush or the ghost of Teddy Kennedy. I've heard tell that to hide the gray, one should keep their hair trimmed "high and tight," but my dome's already started to gray as well, and I'm only in my second year of my first term. Fats, like I said, stress.

You should probably know that there are a few million of my employees on the payroll, and no, before you ask, again, I'm not the CEO of WalMart, bringing us to the problem at hand, Fats:

My leadership team has decided to adopt a new health plan for the, uh, well, NOT for the company and our employees, but rather for the rest of the country. I know this sounds a bit odd, but hear me out. We've decided to change your health plan, but not ours. Our health plan here at my wonderful company is terrific; I mean best in class -- best in the world, actually. However, I came upon this notion of bringing a health package for the rest of country, which may include coverage for illegals as well (you may have heard me and my predecessor refer to these folks as "undocumented workers"), because dang it, health care coverage, IMHO, is a right. Right!?

You seem like a sensible fellow, Jg., any thoughts? What are you ideas here?

- "Barry" in D.C.

Dear "Barry" --

Wow. What an amazing and awkward question you pose. Amazing in that you'd actually reach across the aisle and pose your query to one as conservative as myself, in spite of my being just a lowly, oh-so-lowly, unemployed legal consultant who pitches an occasional screenplay to the studios or creates a startup with huge potential. Awkward in that you'd think I or the seven dear readers who visit FatScribe wouldn't know your "true identity." Unless you're going for that whole super hero thing with the secret identity.

Regardless, sir, you honor me with your request, so here goes:

First, you've now become an historic president ... again. But, this time, it has nothing to do with being the first person of color or the first statist president to be elected. You've now earned the distinction of being the first president to radically alter the course of our country w/out the support of the American electorate. Well done, you, you radical super hero, you. But, I have to wonder if this Pyrrhic victory for you and your leadership team is truly worth the bloodletting that's about to take place in a few months.

Secondly, it seems to me that if we apply the same essential argument that you make for health care coverage (which is NOT the same, btw, as true health CARE, and not simply "coverage") why don't we also apply the same syllogism to housing (I'll take a nice 3-story overlooking Manhattan Beach), or transportation (make mine a Tesla Roadster please, to keep it green Barry. Let's keep it green, baby!), and also the legal system. You know those lawyers that you love so much (you included, and Michelle too!), they love using the legal system to knock down those evil capitalists and big corporate types. Let's also provide essential legal services to the American citizenry as well and wipe out the billable hour for your law firm buddies and also for their cohorts. And, yes, let's also start to jail and fine the big time lawyers who make over the amount you and your new legal services czar deem as unconscionable. Too close to home? Sorry about that.

Finally, Mr. President, I have to ask, sir, if you have actually read this bill. Just last week you and your Lt. in the House, the honorable Nancy Pelosi, have both admitted you haven't read this bill (and we both know Sen. Harry Reid hasn't -- no elected official on their way out would do such a preposterous thing!). Perhaps it's time to flip leisurely through the 2,400 some-odd pages, because then you'd discover that your health care legislation that was passed under the chicanery of budget reconciliation process, actually provides for 16,000 new IRS agents to be hired to crack down on the evil, criminal class who actually may not buy health insurance under this plan. I don't know about you, but it seems like you're not really seeking to be the great reconciler you campaigned on. The first-half of your administration has been mostly smash-mouth politics, legacy and mid-term elections be damned. Can we agree that if the 2010 elections swing radically back to center that we admit a referendum has been called and discuss pulling back from the brink of socialized medicine disaster?

I leave you with this question, Mr. President. If ...
  • Medicare is a failure;
  • The DMV is a guaranteed time-suck;
  • Social Security is bankrupt, imploding in on itself (leaving the rest of us in the lower half of the pyramid scheme SOL);
  • The Post Office is an annual money loser and the Postmaster General is threatening to shut down to run only 4 days each week;
  • The VA can't even take care of our most respected fellow citizens, and is routinely castigated for its incompetent administration and poor health care;
  • and if Amtrack is the poster child for letting a crippled business fold
... then, how do you, "Barry in DC," think that our big gobment bureaucrats are going to actually administer our health care in a manner better than the incompetent exemplars above? It's not about fairness, is it? It's about equal suffering and equal results. It's about your desire to have the government truly run our lives by a few hundred thousand appointed Democrats. If I'm wrong, sir, hit me back on a future ASK FATS post. Perhaps you'll have another query before the end of your first term?

16 March 2010

Life as a 3 Act ... Redux

I'm sure this is not news to many, but most plays and movies have a 3-act structure with your beginning (the setup), middle (plot development and conflict), and end (the denouement or pay-off). Back in the day when I was doing wholesale lending and consumer mortgages, one of my clients who was a producer on Cosby (and is now an SVP at Paramount Pictures) gave me one of my first books on writing (by Lajos Egri). I learned bunches from this read, and was convinced after seeing her house (and her neighborhood) that the entertainment industry was for me.

Fast Forward some 15 years after receiving the Egri book from her, I returned it to her (along with what I thought was a witty missive) when I was on the lot for a few months doing a consulting gig for Paramount's legal group. She had no idea who I was. Plus, I think she even had her assistant call security which is sort of like turning out the dogs on a peddler of magical potions. All this after I seriously saved her bacon (financially speaking, of course; it's not like she was hanging gutted swine on her Beverly Hills estate in the smokehouse out back of her manse) because she had no "real" means of income to verify. I was able to finesse her loan through committee, in spite of some very skeptical underwriters.

If life is a 3-act, then I'm certainly at the end of my 2nd act (and it has not gone swimmingly well to be honest). In all solid yarns, the 1st act has a good initial hook to keep 'em interested. I like to think that mine was along those lines (don't we all think that our early years are interesting?). I showed some real promise once upon a time, and thought the world would be mine for the asking/taking/grabbing of the brass ring ... now however it looks more like the world is mine for the settling/begging/backing into. No worries though, God is good, and I know that hard work is rewarded.

There are some amazing second acts out there for our example. (I suppose the metaphor breaks down here a bit, but let's press on shall we?) Let's look at a quick few:
  • Industrialist Henry Ford -- 20 years after Ford left home to become a machinist apprentice (and later an engineer for Edison), Henry founded his first auto company. He and Edison would become very good friends, and I have seen the jar which held Edison's last breath, that Ford personally requested, which is housed at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI.
  • Entrepreneur Colonel Sanders -- Started selling franchises at age 65 with $105 from his first Social Security check to fund his endeavors. He would soon become a millionaire after selling the parent corporation along with US rights (he retained the Canadian rights for himself). I have personally enjoyed way too much of his finger-lickin' poulet oeuvre -- trust me, it's good.
  • Actor Steve Bescemi -- Former NY firefighter.
  • Writer John Grisham -- Former attorney.
  • Entrepreneur Steve Jobs -- College drop-out, fired in disgrace from Apple, only to return to lead Apple and Pixar to their current design, creative and financial apogee.
  • Actor Dennis Farina -- Former Chicago police officer.
  • Governors Ventura and Schwarzenegger -- Former meat head steroid body builder/ wrestler with crazy accents. (Good gawd how did they get elected? Oh, wait, I voted for one of these guys.)
  • Writer J.K. Rowling -- Former researcher teacher (and on welfare).
  • Writer Tom Clancy -- Former insurance agent.
And F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said that there are no second acts. Ha! Well, he actually said that there are no American second acts. But, the joke of that is that America itself is a second act. We started off as a beach head of sorts for George III's efforts to replenish his dwindling coffers. Then he went too far and ticked off the right sorts of Founders (Henry, Jefferson, Washington, Adams, et.al.) who could stand up to a monarch with myopic skills of statecraft. I suppose becoming the most prosperous and natural resource blessed country in the history of the planet qualifies as the paragon of all second acts.
If America, and Steve Bescemi, and J.K. Rowling can do it, perhaps we all have a second act in us?

13 March 2010

Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy With My Blog and Building My Brand. - NYTimes.com

Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy With My Blog and Building My Brand. - NYTimes.com: "ON a brisk Saturday morning this month, a dedicated crew of about 90 women, most in their 30s or thereabouts, arrived at a waterfront hotel here, prepared for a daylong conference that offered to school them in the latest must-have skill set for the minivan crowd.

Teaching your baby to read? Please. How to hide vegetables in your children’s food? Oh, that’s so 2008.

The topics on that day’s agenda included search-engine optimization, building a “comment tribe” and how to create an effective media kit. There would be much talk of defining your “brand” and driving up page views.

You know. For your blog."

I didn't realize how much of a chick I've become, confirming my friend's suspicions. Men will sometimes call a friend a "chick" to cast an aspersion or vituperative blow, e.g., "Freakin' Smitty. Dude is such a chick sometimes!" These the same men who guiltily enjoyed Devil Wears Prada and Bridget Jones's Diary. Don't get me wrong, although I have lots of guy friends (I still hang out regularly with several best friends from kindergarten and elementary school), I find myself routinely hanging with women. All the time: coffee, drinks, Thai or sushi. Couch time watching a video. I'm comfortable in my skin, and don't have to have a side of best friend with benefits to mark my manhood. Just chillin' with a good friend y'all. I did, after all, have 3 women roommates in college, which maybe explains my preternatural comfort level with those of the estrogen tribe (in fact, all of our cycles would synch and we'd all get good and bitchy) ... though I did like dating their best friends. So maybe that's a best friend with benefits of a best friend? Yuck. We've gone off the rails here. Where was I?

So, when some of my friends teased (wait, let's use a stronger, more masculine word here), er, mocked me last year for starting this writer's experiment (FatScribe.com), I didn't realize I was embarking atop the the next craze/wave of scrapbooking by becoming (gulp) a male blogger. As someone who has started several websites (NeoPolitique [now defunct, though I recently bought back the URL], LuxeMont, LuxeVegas, and others) I profoundly appreciate a well-designed blog. TheSartorialist is a great example of a clean, highly trafficked blog -- by a dude nonetheless. Many of the blogs I subscribe-to or follow over there on the right-hand side (browse through them, btw, they're terrific, really) are also clean and nicely designed. And, yes, many also by men. I will say, though, that the strongest designers I've worked with over the last 11 years helping me put flesh and bones to my vision for various websites have been women. I appreciate their keen artist's approach to the (often thankless) work at hand.

Although some of my best friends are women (insert joke here), let me say that the NY Times article (atop the page) is a really fun read, and to see that almost a billion (yes, BILLION) dollars in ad revenues are coursing through these oft-feminine blogger pages is such a tip of the cap to Milton Friedman and Adam Smith that it does the heart of the ole porkster good!

These crafty women (some perhaps reading this post) who have launched their own blogs just to jump-start a career or transition an avocation into a full-blown career are amazing. I salute them, these Proverbs 31 women. Proverbs 31:10-31

10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 "Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Give her the reward she has earned,

and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

For those about to blog, we salute you! (apologies to AC/DC.) Blog on party people. Blog on.

06 March 2010

Human-flesh Search Engines in China ... NYTimes Feature

Human-flesh Search Engines in China - NYTimes.com: "The short video made its way around China’s Web in early 2006, passed on through file sharing and recommended in chat rooms. It opens with a middle-aged Asian woman dressed in a leopard-print blouse, knee-length black skirt, stockings and silver stilettos standing next to a riverbank. She smiles, holding a small brown and white kitten in her hands. She gently places the cat on the tiled pavement and proceeds to stomp it to death with the sharp point of her high heel."

This article (linked supra) from the NYTimes.com is a real humdinger. It portends truly epic consequences for the world if everyone adopts this sort of unchecked Chinese worldview that allows/encourages a cyber posse mentality for retribution against those that the majority (or a substantial) number of Netizens deems worthy of punishment.

If you read this terrifically researched piece, you'll discover, as I did, the new phrase "human-flesh search engine" which is basically a web of human intelligence (HUMINT for you militarily minded) or human-powered researched data that seeks out neerdowells, or even those individuals who are unpopular, based upon clues revealed from their online activity. We're all just a few clicks away from being "discovered," no? However, in China, where there is still a hegemony of news information by the government (i.e., CENSORSHIP), the Chinese cyber citizenry en masse through BBS (bulletin boards) outlets have created a turnkey source for juicy gossip. The more outrageous postings sometimes lead to cyber bullying and indeed swift retribution where individuals are "outed" and then chased out of communities or fired from their jobs, and yes, even threatened with physical violence.

Click the link above and have a read. Be sure to let us know what you think of this world without habeas corpus or due process or presumption of innocence (good gawd I love the West). Btw, I think the above image from the NYTimes article represents a posse of (repurposed?) Chinese characters chasing one individual nefarious character atop the page fleeing for his font's very life. Pretty cool illustration.

A Typical Friday Afternoon

Just had a conversation with a very good friend of mine who lives in Chicago. My friend and former colleague is one of those young, very successful types. Andy lives in a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home (a beautiful home in a great section of Chicago, with a lovely park behind his house, a dog named Jake, and a great fiancé who puts up with them both); he also has two homes in Colorado from whence he hails. He's a handsome bloke whose mother (the downhill racer extraordinaire) and solid-as-granite father reared a scion who can charm the mortar from a cornerstone.

"Jg., as much as I have loved my time here in Chicago, I think I need to move to California." How many times have we (we few, we 30 million Californians documented and undocumented) heard such lovely sentiments from friends across the country (and south of the border). His words weren't empty wishings after drives and a home along PCH, but were rather an earnest consideration and desire for perhaps a better lifestyle in warmer climes.

So, for Andy, I thought I'd jot down my most recent Friday afternoon. It went something like this:
  • Morning swim at the 'Y' (the same YMCA where I played hoops with Michael Clark Duncan the night he broke his leg) and then off to chapel at my youngest son's school. The drive to chapel and back to home-office took over an hour to travel 11 miles there and back. Before heading out for my first appointment a quick check of the post for an unemployment check (Shoot! Hopefully Saturday mail, then). You see, Dear Reader, even though we're hoping (and wishing and praying) for a successful investment/beginning of this venture that I've mentioned in a previous post, no money literally means NO MONEY. The frustration of my drive, however, was lessened by the gorgeous backdrop before me of snowcapped mountains from recent storms.
  • Lunch meeting with a new client in Beverly Hills. I was rocking my Michael Kors plaid wool suit, old English cap, and favorite scarf (a blue cashmere number I purchased for $9 [$90 discount] from a Banana Republic bin in New Orleans -- I regret not buying five more to this day). The day was a bit cold with clouds and some rain, so we dodged the raindrops and went across the street for some excellent Thai food at Telesai. My partner picked up the tab on this one; thank God for partners.
  • After-lunch discussion back at client's office, with 270 degree view of L.A. (yes, to the beach also) that included cigars and sitting on the veranda watching the storm break up before our eyes, thinking about what could be (if things go right, dear Lord!). Our client is quite a famous singer/actor who is just the nicest person in the world. The rainbow stretching from Sunset Blvd. to Long Beach 30 miles south, btw, was gorgeous and humongous (gormongous?), and I kept looking at either end for that pot o' gold.
  • Afternoon run to The Coffee Bean for a quick fix of a vanilla latte. I check some email via their free WiFi and notice Tom Begeron (Dancing with the (former) Stars and America's Funniest Videos). I was glad to see no one bothering him -- he seems a decent fellow -- and the twenty-something attractive PA or DGA trainee to whom he was imparting his vast show-host advice. Not that anyone would bother him, he's just Tom. Now, Angelina Jolie, yes, when she was here with one of her little babies, paparazzi were all over her/them like stink on the script for Bruce Willis's latest Cop Out. Total crap effort and film. Gawd was that a nasty stinky pile that Kevin Smith grunted out. What were he and Bruce thinking?!
  • Grabbed a few magazines and the latest Stephen King book (Under the Dome) at Barnes and Nobel. I was standing quick-reading Script when I noticed out of the corner of my eye a rather handsome guy looking my direction. You know how you can sense someone looking at you? Anyway, I ignored this unsettling feeling and went back to reading when a typical SoCal middle-aged (very attractive but in a plain running errands sort of way) woman stood next to me and grabbed a magazine as well. She had one of those ubiquitous tats around the ankle that woman of a certain age seem to prefer. The guy was still looking our general direction, so I looked over the woman's shoulder back to him as nonchalantly as I could muster. It was the actor Jack Wagner. He looked great, but like he'd had some work done you know? That's when I noticed what he was actually looking at: his girl Heather. Heather Locklear was the woman with inked ankle standing next to me. She was trying to hurry for him, but she wanted to grab a magazine or two like the rest of us trying to get on the road to beat the afternoon traffic.
  • Back to Beverly Hills to the client's office for a recap "happy hour" meeting at Boa, the restaurant that anchors the bottom floor of client's building. I'm getting tired now from all of the driving and hours in SoCal traffic, but excited nonetheless about the potential of this new business and the contract we just signed. Three of us have a celebratory libation or two (or three) and I notice a scrum of middle-aged hipsters sitting on the couch, one of whom is rocking a way cool chapeau along with a sophisticated affectation thrown in to boot: Don Johnson is sporting a full beard (and socks). He wears it well.
So, dear Andy, if you want to come to L.A., you'll battle an occasional winter storm, hours and hours (and hours) of traffic with your fellow Californians looking cool in their new nifty cars, observe enough "star" sightings to fill a TMZ photog's quota, and hopefully, mirabile visu, discover one of the nicest places to live on the planet. However, SoCal's wonderfulness has nothing to do with celebs and their sycophants, or cool cars and their price tags, or great restaurants sparkling with smoking-hot models who smoke (though, let's not change too much too quickly). It's the people (the ones I've known for the last three decades): they're a laid back, genuine, and caring lot. It's the activities: the skiing, the museums, the surfing, the beach, the mountains, the hiking, the sports teams for your kids. It's the weather: perfect -- especially in San Diego.

But, all of "this" costs a lot. It's an expensive place, this Southern California splendor. So, there you have it, Dear Reader, my humble perspective for those like Andy considering a life resplendent in LA luxe.

Note: Dear Reader, this typical Friday afternoon actually occurred over two days, but I think artistic license allows me to conflate these two rather fungible SoCal Fridays.