Monday, August 31, 2015

In-Between Days: Summerall

I have a toe in marketing (if you’ve got an actual foothold, call me!) and have recently realized that the kind of marketing I know how to do (copywriting, social media, public relations and that most scintillatingly nebulous of concepts, branding) isn’t all that different from blogging.  (Which, come to think of it, may be why I find blogging so vaguely embarrassing.  But that’s a post for another time.)

Marketing is value neutral until you are marketing Marlboros or McDonald’s and not necessarily pandering or obvious, silly or shrill.  When it’s done right, marketing is simply an effort to understand what people want, to determine where their interests overlap with what you have to offer (say a six-pack of microbrew IPAs or a reminiscence of Old Town alleyways) and then to communicate to them compellingly, in a manner they’re likely to appreciate.  Yo, you into wicked hoppy beer?  Excuse me, but are you intrigued by the historical picaresque?

Working with a wine & beer store this week, I noticed customers asking, with barely contained excitement, if we had the pumpkin ale yet (Yo), even as others were stocking up on rosé (Excuse me).  I thought of it as the eager-to-move-forward vs. the not-ready-to-let-go and decided that RIGHT NOW is the perfect time for both camps, as August creeps forward to quietly kiss September on the cheek, or – employing a more sporting metaphor – summer slides into fall and they tangle in a dusty cloud of Summerall.

And thus are marketing concepts/blog posts born. 

So much to love about Summerall!  Eighties days stripped of humidity, seventies nights hinting at sixties.  Unblemished skies (props to Stoppard) and glinting Magnolias.  Sienna leaves telling fortunes on a chalky green tennis court.  Dichotomies.  Relishing warmth and escape from the heat; embracing cool with no fear of cold.  Being staggered by the interplay of copper and blue, evergreen and gold, bright light and dark shadow.  You can breathe now, can’t you?
An espresso drunk on a half-shaded stoop in the Far West Village as treetop shadows play across your face.  A glass of Albariño at an impromptu lunchtime meeting with an old friend, window glowing with golden light, Federer smoothly striking winners on the TV over the bar.  A final trip to the beach, backpack filled with the August drug of choice:  the print fall preview.  

(This, by the way, is the ultimate Summerall Classic Movie.)

You do look back, at least as far of Memorial Day:  You never did try that new food truck with killer lobster rolls and you missed the only unmissable outdoor concert.  But there were a couple of perfect weekends anyway.  And you do look forward:  You are going to read so many great books this fall, and you are going to cook like a maniac.  Well, like Ina Garten, but consistently.  The point is that you won’t just work and watch bad new TV shows and lose every Sunday to football.  You’re going to do better.

This is Summerall in action, from recap to reckoning to resolution.

Monday, August 17, 2015


This goes back to May, the start of a long hot summer that hasn't quite yet passed me by.  (I've been in it every second.)  It's not the best picture I took at the fair; it's just one with nice light.  But I'm determined to not be over-determined as I launch this caravan again.  Wild Posting, something I should have made a go of five years ago... here's your good old American second chance.

I look forward to attempting, with a hopeful minimum of embarrassment, some kind of take on the carnivals I encounter (we all tumble into) every day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Long Hot Summer

I probably prefer my version, hungover and lost and dizzy and wanting lemonade in that confusing part of Paris around l'Opera and the Galleries Lafayette, but the video has punting. Not enough punting in life, generally.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Robert - Regular Coffee - Today

In September 1984, after a lazy summer in Paris, I moved to New York, where I slept on the floor of my friend Glenn's Upper West Side studio and looked unsuccessfully for my first job. I was also unsuccessful finding strong Paris coffee; although there were places that served Cappuccino, they weren't necessarily on the Upper West Side and they weren't generally open first thing in the morning. Where you went instead was a diner, there was one on every other block of Broadway, and what you drank was "regular coffee." Hot coffee with milk, no sugar. Depending on the diner -- and probably the luck of your timing vis a vis the brew cycle -- the results ranged from surprisingly savorable to expectedly ordinary. But the stuff always worked.

I probably never gave it any thought, but if I had, I would have guessed that the iconic New York coffee cup was created by an association of Greek coffee shop owners. (Although "diner" is the preferred New York term, we used "diner" and "coffee shop" interchangeably.) It turns out that it was created by one not-Greek man, whose life is sketched out in a fascinating New York Times obituary today. Leslie Buck, Auschwitz survivor, U.S. immigrant, and young professional on the rise, made a really brilliant marketing decision for a company that was "keen to crack New York's hot-cup market." And, of course, designed the damn thing himself, despite a lack of any such training.

It's a classic New York story, and although my own came later and shares nothing in common with Mr. Buck's except the ubiquity of Greek diners and blue Anthora cups, it makes me nostalgic for my first days in the city. If I were there today, I'd buy a cup of diner coffee and remember: that first cool blue October Sunday when you'd wake with a hangover, stop by a diner for a regular coffee, then walk down the street sipping greedily, breathing in the newly fresh air and coming gradually alive, growing more and more excited by the possibilities of the beautiful day ahead.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

J.D. Salinger - 1954

"You know, I'm the only one in this family who has no problems," Zooey said. "And you know why? Because any time I'm feeling blue, or puzzled, what I do, I just invite a few people to come visit me in the bathroom, and -- well, we just iron things out together, that's all."

This appeared in The New Yorker in 1954, and was the second part of Franny and Zooey by the time I read it in the '70s. This story, that book... I can't say enough about them. Along with Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Just Before the War With the Eskimos: pivotal to my understanding of and desire for life.

I thought that more glorious noise would have been made about Salinger's death -- front-page banner headlines, I suppose. Yes, the world is a mess. But we just lost the only major writer of my lifetime (even if he didn't actually write when I could read).

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Robert - On Tennis - Today

To the extent that Wild Posting is about anything yet, it's about what moves me. Tennis has always moved me, excited me, brought out my own instincts towards the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat -- mostly as a watcher, occasionally as a player (too much agony of defeat there). When I was in fifth grade, and for the next few years, I got to be a ballboy for the Virginia Slims tournament in Akron, Ohio. At the time, Billie Jean, Chris, Martina, Virginia Wade, Rosie Casals, and Evonne Goolagong (the sweetest woman in the world) were the big names. I believe Margaret Court may have showed up once or twice. But she turned out to be not so nice personally/politically, so it doesn't bother me that I can't remember.

I do remember who we rooted for as a family in the '70s: Evonne because she flowed, Stan Smith because he was an American jock and a gentleman, Arthur Ashe because he was an American and a boundary-breaker (and often an underdog), John Newcombe because he was an Australian jock and dashing, and Chris. (Everyone rooted for Chris back then. In retrospect, I think that most of them were rooting for her blonde hair and the freckles on her nose, but I was rooting for those vicious eyes.)

In the '80s and '90s, off on my own now, it was all Steffi and Pete. I loved how hard Steffi hit, loved her stoicism on court (and the dismissive thing she would do with her hand when she hit a bad shot), loved her legs. I loved Pete's hangdog expression before he fired yet another ace, and even more his running forehand. I loved that they were champions who were human and sometimes failed, and loved that more often they didn't.

For the past ten years, the list of players I am truly enthusiastic about has narrowed to one. Roger Federer will be remembered for the records, and for being the most gentlemanly of modern players, and everyone will be sure to mention his "genius." He does have genius, but the amazing thing about this isn't his raw talent, but rather the way it has transformed tennis matches. It's remarkable to watch him at his best -- not because he dominates, but because the matches look and feel different when he plays. You get to see all of these new possibilities in a very old game.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

George Saunders - Heavy Artillery - Today

Down, down, down... to convenience clerk

And smart as ever.

This is who I would like to be.