Never back ’em in a corner without a bargaining chip

“Here.  Here’s somebody new to write about.  Listen to what he has to say and analyse his life.  I need the spotlight off of me for a while. I’m gonna go see your wife, Karen, over there.”

“Okay, Guin.  Hi, I’m Lee.”

“I’m Kirby.”

“Yeah.  So we know each other already.”

“Or we think we do.  Nice outfit you got there.  I’m not much for wearing pinned-on jewelery myself, though.”

“It’s not jewelery.  It’s supposed to be part of the outfit…”

“Is that what they call ‘steampunk’?”

“Yeah.  Karen made it for me.  It’s supposed to look like I’m geared up.  See, this key winds.”

“Uh-huh.  Still looks like jewelery to me.”

“It does, doesn’t it?”

“Me, I don’t even wear a wedding band.  I don’t like rings or nothing like that.  Guin, see, she likes her ring but she says it keeps falling off and she’s afraid she’s going to lose it.  Looks like you’re wearing two rings.  Why’s that?”

“This one on my right hand is my real wedding band but my wedding finger knuckle is all swollen up, pre-arthritic, I think, so I bought this cheap fifty-dollar tungsten steel ring at Walmart.”

“Hey, works for me.  I think I got arthritis, too.”

“No kidding?  How old are you?”


“That’s awfully young.”

“Well, all the basketball I’m playing and all the other sports I played when I was younger, just about every joint in my lower body is torn up or was broken.”

“I heard you busted your ankle.”

“Yeah, I twisted it pretty bad three weeks ago.  It’s healing some, though.”

“Guin says you want her to choreograph a a rumba so you can do a dance showcase in November with her, as soon as the ankle heals.”

“She keeps saying that.  I don’t know.  My ankle may take a long time to heal.”

They nodded the guy nod together, which said, “I know what you mean.  We only go so far to accommodate our women and then we adopt a fallback position.  Theirs is ‘Sorry, honey, I have a headache,’ or ‘I’m too tired.’  Ours is ‘I’m the man of the house and when I say I don’t want to’ it means ‘I know you’re going to give me that look which means I’ll have to say I want to’ so we, instead, have our own set of chronic problems — backaches from too much heavy lifting around the house, ankle/knee sprains from sports outings with the guy,s or having to work strange/long hours.  We’re guys.  It’s what we do best.”

“Guin says you’re a member of the Club.”

“She did?”


“Looks like she keeps saying a lot of things.”

“You said it, not me.  But are you a member?”

“Naw.  But I’ll tell you something funny.  I went back to my hometown a couple of months ago and the barber whose been cutting my hair since I was six — that’s 45 years now — he told me that with my father gone, it’s my turn to join the Club and pick up where Dad left off.”

“Uh-huh.  Sounds like my family.  So, you gonna join?”

“I might.”

“There’s a local chapter that has my application.  All I’ve got to do is finish the interview process and pay my dues.”

“‘Pay your dues.’  Yeah, I know what you mean.”

They stood in silence for a few minutes, watching the crowd around them, satisfied their silence had no meaning or subtextual reference.

Lee looked up at Kirby’s head.  “You got a lot more gray hair than I remember.”

“It’s from my days at the Rocket Center.  That place’ll make anybody turn gray.  But I’m leaving it just the way it is.”

“I normally do, too.  I dyed my hair tonight for the show.”

“Uh-huh.  You gotta do what you gotta do.  So Guin says you’re connected.”

“She says what she’s gotta say.”

“Uh-huh.  I understand.”

“However, if there’s anything you need…”

“Yeah, I get it.”

“Your dues have already been paid.”

“I see.”

“As far as I’m concerned, you’re family.”

“‘Family?’  Like in…”

“Anything.  Anything at all.  If you want to join the Club, join the Club.  But your membership’s good, as far as I’m concerned.”


“We got your back covered.”

“Is that so?”

“Hey, why do you think we arranged the dance showcase with Guin?”

“You tell her this?”

“Nope.  And I’m not telling you ‘this,’ either.”

“Hey, I’m cool.”

“We know.  Oh, hi, Guin.  I was just talking with your man here about his joining the Club.  Sounds like maybe both of us are gonna join.”

“That’s good.  I wasn’t sure if you were already a member since you’d talked about it before.”

“No, it was never a requirement in my book.  But now that my father’s gone, I figure I owe it to the family to keep my legacy intact.”

“I thought so.”  She linked an arm through Kirby’s.  “Lee’s got friends.  He’s like my family back home.”

“Yeah, I get the drift.  Lee, good to see you, man.  Let’s do this Club thing.”

“All right, Kirby.  Talk to you soon.”  They shook hands.

Tomorrow, a tale on Mars, illustrated

While our Creative Arts department puts away its propaganda material, preparing for morning sketches, let us look at sports that don’t often see the limelight.

And here’s the image du jour…

Well, before I post it, a little background.  You see, after talking with Jenn tonight, we’ve decided to change our outfits for the showcase dance.  I said I was going as a punk rock Big Bird, meaning she could go as her favorite character, Oscar the Grouch:

Big Bird and Oscar 001

But then…well, the craziness kicked in.  She’s going to dare me to dress as a sexy Big Bird, I know it, so I better dare her to dress as a sexy Oscar the Grouch first!  We’ll see who wins the “best costume” contest — me as a drag queen Big Bird or her as a hot Oscar!

Big Bird and Oscar 002

Life is short — wear fur and big feet, eat dessert later!

A new form of tattoo?

More and more lately, I’ve seen people with naturally dark skin get tattoos in the form of skin bleaching, some getting fake tanlines and others covering themselves with various shades of geometric patterns.

I was so excited about the new trend I had it done to me.

One small problem — my skin is already bleached-looking.

I call it the most expensive invisible tattoo ever.

My friends call it the Emperour’s New Clothes syndrome.

When you’re a maverick like me, you do whatever it takes to get noticed, going invisible included.

If it tastes good…

As an industry consultant, I’ve seen just about every combination of cross-product marketing there is.

Until now!

A popular soft drink manufacturer, in order to increase its market share because of recent losses to niche products, asked me to look for inspiration that its vast advertising/marketing executives had not found.

So, in order to figure out just what makes a soft drink a soft drink, I bought 7 days of time to have a small, local, corner convenience store to myself for a week.

The first day we removed the labels from every product in the store.  Customers were left to decide what they wanted simply by looking at the foodstuff inside the container.

Most customers were perplexed.  They wanted to know if the shape of the bottle or bag indicated the product they were used to.

Using a hidden earbud system, I told the employees behind the counter to say yes.

The second day, we applied the labels of popular colognes and perfumes to the drink and food containers.

For instance:

  • The two most popular soft drink competitors we labeled Chanel and Dior.
  • The three most popular beer competitors we labeled Old Spice, Grey Flannel and English Leather.
  • The five most popular chip/cookie competitors we labeled Drakkar Noir, Stetson, Wild Musk, White Diamonds and Viva La Juicy.

The customers from the day before were a little confused but went ahead and bought the bottle shapes or bag sizes with which they were familiar.

New customers again were perplexed.  Some of them wanted to know if the shape of the bottle or bag indicated the product they were used to.

Again, using a hidden earbud system, I told the employees behind the counter to say yes.

That left a large group of customers who couldn’t remember the shapes or sizes of the products they thought they liked.

Their formerly favourite labeled can of energy drink looked like the can of beer labeled Brut and their formerly favourite labeled bag of cookies looked like the bag of cheese crisps labeled Nautica.

I told the employees behind the counter to assure the customers that their satisfaction was 100% guaranteed — if they didn’t like their mysteriously-labeled product, they could return it for a full refund.

Without prompting the employees to encourage the idea or coaxing the customers to think otherwise, within a couple of days, customers both old and new came into the store to get their more exciting product, which seemed more flavourful and nutritious despite the only change being a new label.

Our lip gloss section we left alone since it already contained liquids and waxes with names like Dunkin Donuts and Dr. Pepper.

Of course, in our small three-shelf section of fragrances, we applied labels like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Budweiser, Coors, Doritos, Golden Flake, Twix and other foodstuff products.

Those few customers who bought their fragrances at our convenience store were surprised at how their usual cologne or perfume had a new aroma, a certain je ne sais quos that enhanced their dating prospects for the night.

By the end of the week, we had increased sales for the convenience store owner due mostly to the curiosity factor.

The following week, the proper labeled bottles and bags were returned to their respectful locations, disappointing a whole new customer base that complained the old labeled products just didn’t taste as delicious as the products with the switched labels from the week before.

I completed the research project report and gave a short presentation to the popular soft drink manufacturer.

Thus, I imagine, you will soon see new adverts promoting the carbonated beverages and processed foods you like, combining them with fragrance manufacturers to show how your whole lifestyle will change when you drink Dior’s favourite wine cooler or Fanta’s favourite cologne.


What is your definition of middle-class success?

$30/day income?


$400?  $500?

What about the costs associated with the standard of living you provide yourself and/or family on that income?

Can you afford your own car?

Let’s take one vehicle as an example of what its cost adds to your standard of living — the 2012 Toyota Avalon Limited (as detailed here):

5 Year Details

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 5 Yr Total
Depreciation $7,139 $3,502 $3,081 $2,731 $2,451 $18,904
Taxes & Fees $3,169 $441 $398 $362 $329 $4,699
Financing $1,175 $934 $683 $422 $151 $3,365
Fuel $2,249 $2,317 $2,386 $2,458 $2,532 $11,942
Insurance $1,480 $1,532 $1,585 $1,641 $1,698 $7,936
Maintenance $42 $404 $568 $919 $2,005 $3,938
Repairs $0 $0 $96 $232 $337 $665
Tax Credit $0 $0
True Cost to Own ® $15,254 $9,130 $8,797 $8,765 $9,503 $51,449

That doesn’t include a place to park your vehicle such as a one/two car garage, driveway or public carpark.

It doesn’t include the time you spend in the vehicle driving yourself through traffic as opposed to whatever else you could be doing in that travel time.

And that’s just one aspect of the life of a car owner, one small portion of a successful middle-class lifestyle.

If you didn’t spend that money on a car, you could spend it on yourself — a nice holiday getaway, perhaps — or on someone else — a loved one or a favourite charity.

When you say the life you live is the life you want to nourish with material goods, what is the cost to the future that you’re spending on yourself today?

The purchasing power of money is a responsibility, a benefit and a danger.

I don’t have kids.

My future is here and now.

I want my wife and myself to enjoy our days together while we can because we’ve seen couples where one spouse or the other died at an early age, including her brother at 51.

My wife and I turn 51 this year so it is an important one in our joint psyche.

We know we’re borrowing from the future to give ourselves some enjoyment today but that’s okay.

Sure, there’s a little guilt that we’re enjoying ourselves when her brother no longer can and that’s okay, too.

Life is what it is.

There may be kids starving out there somewhere but I’m not taking the world on to raise.

With total cost of ownership there is an emotional component as well as a rational mathematical one.

Today the two crossed paths.

Tomorrow we’ll see if we’re as happy today as we thought we’d hope we’re going to be adding a few luxuries to our motorcar collection.

[I’m behind in thanking others — time to catch up soon.]