Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saturday in the ER

I took my son to a birthday party at a bowling alley. The kids were doing their bad bowling with the bumpers up, and I threw a couple balls myself. We were just waiting for the party to get started. Kirk was having fun bowling and just being a kid. I talked briefly to a couple of the other parents, but I had my eye on the bar. It didn’t seem to be open yet, but I was wondering how soon I could get myself one of those Millers Lites.

I was considering leaving for a while. I could sneak out and do some shopping or something and come back after all the cake was eaten. But it was a Saturday afternoon, and I was a bit hungover, and in no hurry to do much of anything. There was a college football game on one of the TVs and I had just started to get into that. The Gophers were playing a team with an N. That was as much as I knew. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know the other team, they were the enemy, and they were winning. So there I was, a dad at a birthday party, in a bowling alley, watching college football and cringing every time the N team made another first down, when suddenly my little boy came running up to me crying.

As a parent this happens all the time. Kids come running up crying. Usually it amounts to nothing. Sometimes it takes a boo boo kiss, or just a little holding. He was pointing at his butt and I figured he had fallen after throwing the bowling ball badly. I was at a low level of concern, because this seemed like a quick fix, until he turned around and showed me the real problem.

There was a 5-inch piece of wood, a splinter hanging from his bottom. It was poking into his pants. I didn’t know what to think. I simply pulled on it and it came out in my hands. I looked at it, and I realized things might be bad. I figured he had scooted on the floor and a piece of wood had splintered and stabbed his bottom, but I couldn’t se how badly it had poked him. I was sure it had broken the skin a little, but I needed to check it out more. I rushed him to the men’s room, stood him on the sink, and pulled his pants down. I saw underneath the stall that a dude was pooping in there. Kirk was screaming. I was trying to calm him while I pulled down his underwear and looked at his butt. I saw immediately that there was about 4 inches of splintered wood buried deep into the flesh of his buttock.

The pooper flushed and walked past us. Kirk was screaming as I tried to get a hold of the splinter, thinking I could pull it out. The decision came upon me suddenly. It was time to go to the hospital. Quickly.

I grabbed him in my arms and rushed back to the party. People there were in shock as I said, “We’re going to the hospital, now!”

I had to take off my bowling shoes and put my street shoes back on. I yanked Kirks bowling shoes off and grabbed his coat and shoes and went straight to the car. I wondered where to put him. With a big stick in his butt it seemed cruel to make him sit in his car seat, but I could see no other way. I strapped him in and we were off.

The hospital was close thankfully. I knew where it was. He had been born there. Kirk was crying and he said, “This was supposed to be fun.”
“I know buddy, I’m sorry.” I told him. And I was trying to make him feel at ease by telling him the doctors would have the right tools and medicines to get the splinter out and take away the pain. I was trying to calm him with reason, as I was completely freaked out. I blew through some stop signs, I sped and disregarded the law in the safest way I could to get him there as quickly as possible.

“I can’t take this.” He screamed over and over. I found out later that he was using his arms and legs to keep his butt off the seat. He was becoming exhausted from the effort.

I parked and carried him in. He was still in his stocking feet. I admitted him and thankfully we were put in a room fairly quickly. I had forgotten my phone that morning, because I had left it to charge, so I used the hospital phones to try to get a hold of his mother who was napping with our daughter.

The events of the day were crazy, fast, and surreal, and so much happened that would have been awesome to document with pictures and video, or even sharing on social media, but there I was without my phone, as if I were stranded in the 20th century with no way to document the experience. I felt naked. And alone.

Soon he was on his tummy with a topical pain-killer on the wound watching cartoons as the doctors figured out a way to got the thing out. The official procedure was called “removal of a foreign body.” There was a giant stick in his butt. It needed removing.

I finally got a hold of his mother, and she was at home, helpless, and in a panic as well. His two year old sister upon hearing that he had an owie in his butt said he needed butt medicine. This made us all laugh. Even Kirk.

The doctor wasn’t sure it would be easy to get out just by pulling it. She was afraid they would have to make incisions, so it was decided to put him under full sedation, so they could get the job done right. This was in essence, surgery.

So they had to prep him and put in a IV for the anesthesia. I had to lay on the bed with him and spoon him to keep him calm as they did this. I have to say the one good thing for me in all of this were the snuggles. I got a lot of good hugs from my boy during all of the trauma.

He loved the part where they drove his bed from the first ER room to the surgery room. It was a bit of fun that I was happy to help him get excited about. How often do you get to drive your bed? He loved it, and was having fun.

Once in the surgical room it became very real, and chaotic. There was the doctor and the nurse, and the triage nurse, the anesthesiologist, and his nurse, and a student observer. I had to sign scores of release forms. Once he was out, they made me go to a waiting room where I called his mother. I was worried. It was a simple thing, but it seemed very serious.

Thankfully it was done in minutes. There were no problems. It came out in two pieces fairly easy. No stitches necessary. I smiled at him but he was fully drugged and groggy. He barely could tell it was me. I said to him, “buddy, it’s all over. You did great. They don’t need to put you in a Darth Vader suit after all.”

Then we had to wait for a while until all the drugs worked their way through. He started to panic and cry. He was disorientated. He begged to go home. So I held him. It was difficult to hold him because I didn’t want to mess with the new bandages, and he was hooked to several different machines. He was in a hospital gown with 5 cords attached to his chest, an arm cuff, and one of those finger things that measures oxygen.

As I held him he got nauseous and threw up. They gave him more drugs in his IV for that and then we waited. After a while they tried to see if he could stand and walk, but he stumbled into things like his daddy after a night of bourbon. So we waited longer.

As he gained lucidity he grew inpatient with all of the chords attached to him. I explained what they were all for as best I could and showed him what they were showing on the monitors. He asked what the blue one on the monitor meant. I told him I thought it was to measure his breathing. The reading was 100. He then started to breath faster. We could see the line moving a little but it still read 100. He asked me if the number would ever change. So I told him to hold his breath. He did, and the number dropped to 99, then 98. Then I freaked out and told him to breathe normally. It went back to 100. We both laughed at our little game, but I felt bad that I was screwing around with his biometrics so soon after he just had anesthesia.

Then the doctor came in with a whole bunch of cheap plastic toys from China. He loved them. I have to mention here that while we were in the first triage room, when I took off his pants, I found a lego man in his pocket. It was Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean, which he had brought with him to the party. I gave it to him and he held it through the entire procedure. It was his totem object.

Finally we were able to unhook him and put his clothes back on. It was dark out and it had snowed a lot by the time we got outside. It was our first snow of the season. I had to carry him, since he still had no shoes. We stopped at White Castle at his request on the way home so he could enjoy some “deliciously awesome chicken rings.”

Suddenly he was back to his old self. His mom hugged the crap out of him when we finally showed up, and his sister didn’t pay any attention at all. It was normal. It was strange to have it all be so suddenly normal after such a weird day.

When Kirk is asked why he was scooting his butt on the floor at the bowling alley he says, “I was just being a kid.” This is true. Whew. I am tired. What a day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Boom Box

I miss the boom box. It was never the same after the advent and proliferation of CD’s. Boom boxes worked best with FM radio and cassettes. Cassettes were the shit really. A completely useful technology. Cassettes never skipped while you worked out, walked, or held them. Ipods didn’t replace CD’s. We still use CD’s sometimes to put our music onto our ipods. Ipods replaced cassettes. Ipods became the ultimate mix tape. And actually a little soul was taken out with the advent of the playlist. Sometimes the two minute song you planned to be at the end of your mixtape was perfect even though it got cut off anyway. CD’s can’t brag at replacing cassettes though. CD’s have merely become vessels of memory. And not the most efficient ones either. Once terabytes of memory are transferred via a thumbdrive CD’s will go the way of the 8-track.
Boom boxes boomed. Ghetto blasters! To be worn on the shoulder as to get the music evenly distributed directly into your earhole. Countless decibels of noise pollution to be heard by every one within a city block. Some square marketing professional in a suit would hear it and listen obsequiously (must never make eye contact with people on the street) and he would head into a record store on his way home. He would enter the dark shop filled with rock posters, t-shirts, bottons, stickers, magazines, and depending on your location and current laws even pot paraphenilia. The square wouldn’t be frightened in this non suit wearing smoky environment. This would have been like in the early 80’s. He would have been to plenty of record stores before. He would most likely light a smoke and start browsing the racks. He would be searching mainly in vinyl. He might consider a cassette if the walkman was invented yet. But our square is looking for the song he heard on the street during his morning commute. He finds Funky Town easily enough on a point of sale end cap near the front of the store. “My kids are going to love this.” He muses. Then he remembers he couldn’t find that little dealy bob that goes on the turntable so you can play 45’s. He buys one of those too. He pays in cash. Cash he got from writing a check for over the amount at the liquor store the previous evening. Robot tellers weren’t in use in his time.
Nowadays we don’t go into record stores anymore. We would just download Funky Town. I’m downloading it now.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Agency Life-so far

This post is dedicated to one of my favorite art directors, Meagan Tosch. She alone (out of many) graduated with me, and she too has just begun her career. The following is an email I intended to write to her, but soon realized was too long. Enjoy!

Poop! Two days down. Your career has officially begun. I'm actually jealous because my job is still temporary. Though it has been amazing here, there are starting to be things about it that have reduced my level of extreme elation. Don't get me wrong, I am supremely fortunate to have landed this gig. I am getting a crash course in agency life, which include the perks, and the pitfalls.

I worked 21 hours this weekend editing video. Sure I spent some time playing Xbox, and I did drink a bunch of whiskey, but the fact of the matter is that I was away from my family all weekend. (Except for the two hours where they visited me. Kirk played lego Batman and Ronnie loved jumping into the giant bean bags) But I was mostly away. This is time I won't get paid for. Which is fine. A deadline is a deadline, and you do what you have to. That is true agency experience.

When we finally showed our work on Monday morning people seemed to like it. It was great. We at least met and possibly exceeded expectations. Still we were continually hassled to get it into a presentable form for the client. We did that. Then the client came back with suggestions. Ha! You know what's coming next. They want more of the boring bullshit that sucks and a little less of the awesome creative stuff that is well, awesome. But its not that bad, the fixes are pretty easy and shouldn't take too long, and at least they didn't piss all over our entire concept. Right?

Still the quick fixes are fine if we have time to work on them, but we keep getting new junk to do on other things, and people are wondering what is taking so long on some of the previous projects we had been working on. The CD laughed when I talked to him about it over a beer. He laughed because he loves the fact that we as interns are truly getting the feel of agency life because that was the goal all along.

I did voice over work today. I sat in a room with the other copywriters and read lines to be put on a flash animation presentation to the client's vendors. It was cool. But while I was in the edit room with them they started to bitch about things. Three weeks ago these were the two people I interviewed with. These are the two people who I was frightened of, and now I am just one of the boys who gets to be in on the gossip. I loved it. I loved it because it was real life experience the type you can't get in school.

This email is too long. It should be a blog post. Sorry. I just need a sounding board to get this stuff out. I absolutely love this job. It's amazing, but I'm starting to see how working in advertising is a job, and not just the fantasy I had while in school. I knew it would be like this, but I now know how it really feels. There are times when I have no work to do and I'm looking for an assignment so I don't seem like a lazy douche intern, and then the next second I will be inundated with work which will make me have to miss my bus and have no chance to have supper with my family. And it's way worse for the designer. Everyone wants to drop work on his lap so he can do flash animation, make a powerpoint look good, or just photoshop products in different colors. Production slave. At least he's useful. I don't know how to use most programs, so I feel like I don't have as much to offer.

Anyway. This career in my experience is totally fun, awesome, and worth all the time we put into getting here. But it is still a job. I would love to stay where I am because I don't have the energy to go looking for another gig, and I think this agency has a lot going for it. Looking for work sucks. Still I have to keep on top of my game. I have to keep networking and showing my portfolio anywhere I can.

I'm sure we will have lots and lots and lots of these experiences to share in the ensuing decades as we build our careers. Lets stay in touch. Who knows, maybe we will work together again sometime. Lets do it somewhere fun though. My family would love to spend time in England.



Friday, February 11, 2011

Lazy Blogger/I got a job in advertising

I have been bad. When I quit my cube job to become a stay at home dad I was under the strange delusion that I would have so much more time to document my life in blog form. I soon discovered that being at home did not mean I would have lots of extra time to do my own thing. The primary role of the stay at home dad is...well, being a dad. Those kids demanded a lot of my time. It was fun. We had great times. Lots of visits to parks, and trips to gymnastics, bike rides to the bowling alley. We had a ball. Throughout it all I still had to go to school, and actually try to get my career off the ground. Time ticked away, and my blog suffered.

Now it has been more than a year since I began that phase of my life, and I am beginning a new one. School for me is over. My portfolio is ready to show. Kirk is in Kindergarten, and we have just put Ronnie back into daycare. This all has been part of the plan all along. As for my career, the intention was that at this point I would either get a job in advertising or go back to temping until I found a job in advertising.

The best part is that I got a job in advertising! And thank god for that. I was fretting about it. I was out showing my book to whoever would look at it, visiting various agencies, meeting with every contact I have ever come across in the past two years trying to drum up something. I was scared. Ronnie had a place in daycare waiting for her. I needed to get work somewhere in order to pay for it. As a family we had been going into the red every month for longer than I would like to admit, and the credit was running out. We were in a pinch. Something had to break. It broke. I felt like a man diving into a tank of sharks who instead of being ripped apart at impact suddenly found himself swimming with dolphins. Or maybe mermaids.

With almost perfect timing I was asked to come in to interview for an internship position at an agency I had applied to while still in school. I had my wife's parents look after the kids so I could go to the interview. I troubled myself over what to wear. I knew I shouldn't show up in a full suit, because ad peeps aren't like that anymore, but I wanted to show respect for the interview. I ended up wearing new jeans I bought for the occasion, a simple button up shirt, and my chuck taylors. I threw on a suit jacket as an offering of respect. I have heard horror stories of people showing up overdressed for ad gigs, and I didn't want to be the next.

Before arriving to the interview I was terrified. The shop I was going into does a lot of digital work, and my book is mostly traditional print media. I practiced the night before by familiarizing myself with all of their clients. I came up with questions they might ask and practiced answers I might give. I was also hoping they wouldn't think I was too old. Not because I think I am too old, or that I have ever heard of that being a problem in this business, but because I was scared, and realized that I might not be as enthusiastic about "revolutionizing the industry" as someone in their 20's might do. I went into the convenience store and bought a 5 hour energy drink before I went in. I figured the dose of vitamins would get me to 25 year old levels of enthusiasm at least.

When I got off the elevator and saw the agencies' sign all I said to myself was, "groovy." The space was at the top floor of a hundred year old building right in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. It was open, spacious, well lighted from every angle by large windows and skylights, and there were stylish benches near the windows for me to sit on while I waited. I very much dug it there. I had been to lots of agencies in Minneapolis, Chicago, and LA. I like ad agencies because they set out for a visual aesthetic. It's one of the reasons I want to be there and not in a regular corporate cube farm. When I was still working at Wells Fargo while going to school, I would sometimes have class in the teacher's agency, and I was always jealous first at how much more the actual space was designed for awesomeness than regular cube jobs, and second by the fact that there were always free sodas and beers in the fridge.

When I went into this interview I was thinking I had a small chance at maybe getting the gig, but once I actually sat down with the copywriters who were interviewing me, I suddenly felt like I was already the guy they wanted. It was amazing. When I think back on it, this was my first real interview that had a job on the other side of it. I have been to tons of informational interviews, or portfolio reviews, but this was the first real job interview in advertising I had ever had. I had my book ready to show, but it never came up. They had already seen my work and my resume, and they just wanted to get a bead on who I was, and if I could be someone to work with for three months. One of the copywriters had done driving jobs just like I had. He also played bass, just like me. He too wanted to write comics. The other copywriter was older, and had spent time as a stay at home dad. He too got into this business later in life and felt that writers need a strong background in life. Both of them found my experience in rock and roll to be an asset.

I was completely at ease for the entire interview. I almost felt like the job was mine. I got the tour of the agency and it was everything I always love about ad agencies. Kiss pinball, ping-pong, booze, nice furniture, places to work that are hip, fun, and functional. Everything about the place was great. The fact that I had no experience in digital didn't matter. They liked my portfolio as it was and assured me that new media solutions could be taught. I was on top of the world.

It must be noted that while I was touring the agency, I took time out to call my attorney. I called him because his office is across the street from where I was. He could see me from his office waving at him. He said, "You have to get this gig, so we can have lunches together." This was perfect. If I was in charge, I would have said, "Yes, I'll take this job."

It was all too good. I had to wait 2 days for an answer, and the amount of anxiety and second guessing that went on during that period could fill volumes. This was the perfect gig for me. It was perfect for my family. It was perfect in every way. It was only a three month paid internship, but it was a job in advertising. You need to remember that I was also trying to get jobs through the temp agencies. I had been to their offices recently, wearing a suit, tie, and uncomfortably nice shoes. I took tests. They were ready to put me back to work at Wells Fargo as a temp for the same amount of money that the internship provided. I waited and worried.

Then happiness burst into my world. It was like the birth of a new child. I got the job. I wanted to scream my elation from the rooftops. I wanted everyone to know. My mom, dad, and brother all got calls. I was so happy, yet I was a little worried about telling some of my school peers. I didn't want to come off douchey, but I still wanted them to know I had made it into an agency.

I managed to get a job in advertising. For three months at least. It is a great opportunity. It is up to me to make it pay off. I feel that my career is finally off the ground. I am ready to become Chris Hill-copywriter. My excitement and happiness at this point is a state I need to ride, like a surfer. I may crash, but I may also ride that wave to a future I haven't yet dreamed of.

Now for the hard part. Agency life?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hipster, poser,or lazy slob?

When you look at me you will see a 37 year old dad with messy hair, an unshaven face, worn out checkered Vans, and an argyle cardigan. The thing about my look is I never really tried to cultivate it, it just sort of happened. Don't get me wrong, I'm as vain as the next douche walking down the street. I have tried in the past, very unsuccessfully, to create a "look" for myself, but in the end I just got lazy and fell into what feels right for me. Which is cool I guess. The problem is that currently my look is considered to be contrived hipster. I don't mind being mistaken for a hipster, but I do mind being mistaken for a poser.

Lets break this down shall we? I have been snugly cardiganed for my entire adult life. I live in a cold climate. I like cardigans. It's as simple as that.

Next there is my messy hair. I tried forever in my life not to have messy hair. Then I got tired of it. Suddenly my failure to use a comb becomes the fashion forward look. (I said suddenly, but the messy hair thing has been going on for some time now. I'm old, remember?)

My stubble is not me trying to show my gritty side. My beard is merely the result of my baby face. For years I could not grow a decent beard if I tried. When I was younger, this bothered me a lot, gave my insecurity, made it hard to sneak into clubs underage, etc. But eventually, somewhere in my 30's my beard began to sprout. The thing is, I was used to shaving once a fortnight. That kind of habit is hard to break. I still shave as often as I have my entire adult life. Only now, I look like Don Johnson or something. (Kids, you can Wiki Don Johnson if you need to. I wore a jacket like his to class pictures in 9th grade. One of my only true regrets in life.)

Then there are the old checkered Vans. I have to admit, I bought my first Vans in 2001 so I could be like Spicoli. I used to see older kids wearing them in the 80's and I thought they were so cool. In 2001 it was hard to find them. I looked all over hell, and once I had them, they were suddenly everywhere. This happens to me a lot. I choose a fashion accessory, have a hard time finding it, and within the year it is in Target. I think I'm being followed by the big brother of fashion or something. I have worn the Vans since 2001. I wear them out and buy a fresh pair every 9 months or so. They get very worn looking, and people often remark how awesome it is that I still have vintage Vans from the 80's.

So my current look is poser hipster. Oh well, in 5 years trends will change and I'll still be doing what I do. Fashion trends tend to come and go and sometimes I look withit, gear, fab, and other times I look like a lame asshole. But the timing for my current hipster look is good. I am in school with people much younger than I and looking trendy helps me to blend in, until I start talking about breast pumps, poopy diapers, The Berenstain Bears, or the wonderful aspects of Goldfish crackers. Most people don't think I am as old as I am. I've always had the baby face too. It bothered me a lot back when I was 20, but now its a good thing.

There is one thing that always makes me look old. My pants are too wide. I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, wear skinny jeans. FUCK! Never. But someday the loose fit will come back too, and I'll be cool all over again. Of course by then all this grey hair will be a dead give-away. Oh well.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Portfolio Night 2010. One man’s story of the LA contingent.

There were terrible hours the day before departure. One word was incorrect in a comp. As the copywriter I should have noticed it much earlier, and in fact I had, yet I found it to be too silly to go unnoticed by any art director worth their salt. Still, the mistake was purely mine. It came from my original document. Always proof read! Always!

I had the mistake corrected by one of my own contingent. Then I was off to the printer in a feverish frenzy to get my book together before I had to deal with the vicissitudes of life that an Ad Dad has to endure.

On the morning of Portfolio Night I awoke as usual and dressed my kids. I fed them breakfast and even spent some time in blissful cuddling. Then I drove my son to his pre-kindergarten class. He has gone every Thursday since the beginning of the year, but today was his last class. I would have to be back in an hour and a half for his “graduation” ceremony. I took the time in between to go to the bank, and to buy new headphones to enjoy music on my flight to Los Angeles. I wanted to buy new checkered Vans for the occasion since mine were badly worn, but I didn’t have the time. I buy new Vans every year, but I figured I could rely on the idea that my old pair were “vintage” and get a pass on that.

I picked up my wife and we headed to the graduation. My son decided to not cooperate during the ceremony. In fact he had his hands stuffed deeply in his pants the entire time. I decided to not be unduly embarrassed. At the end of it we all went to a small concert given by a children’s performer. Then we raced home so I could make my final preparations for my flight to LA.

The flight went well. I saw many mountains and other interesting geological features from above. When we landed I turned on my phone and found out from a message that I had left my sons diploma at the school. I felt like a complete ass.

I left the airport with my bag strapped to my shoulder. I never check luggage. I walked outside and asked the first person I saw with and official badge which way Sepulveda Boulevard was. I should have printed a map. Or I should have taken a cab, but I thought I could get to the ad agency by walking. It was close. Real close. But my mistake was applying logic. I assumed Supulveda North would be north of Sepulveda regular. A fifteen minute walk and much questioning left me with a different answer. So then I backtracked and found myself growing increasingly late for the event which brought me to LA in the first place. I walked back to where I had been and then even farther. Suddenly I was confronted with a tunnel. A traffic tunnel. A car tunnel. An evil tunnel. I looked for a way around the tunnel but I was fenced in. I was late enough already and with growing anxiety I decided I couldn’t back track another mile. I KNEW my destination was at the end of that tunnel so I decided to go through even though there were clearly marked signs telling me not to.

I walked through that long tunnel with cars and trucks whizzing by. It was not fun. Halfway through it was made worse by the realization that my right arm was covered in a thick black soot. I trudged on. I prayed I would not be stopped by cops, or worse, flattened by an errant vehicle. If I was stopped by authorities I was prepared to play the “aw shucks” yokel card, and get a ride to my destination anyway. Eventually I made it out, and there was the building I needed. I walked inside and I could see people milling about the guard desk. I was too embarrassed in my black arm sooty stage to go forward, so I went toward a restroom. It was locked. Damn! I then proceeded to try to wash off my blackened arm in the drinking fountain. I made an insane mess on the floor. But thankfully I was not seen. I called my friend and was able to take my bags to his car. Then I checked in to the event and was finally able to clean myself of sufficiently in a bathroom. From there on the event went quite well.

The host agency was David and Goliath. They did the KIA ads with the hamsters. I have actually made fun of those ads before, still it was fun to poke around the place and see areas where the creatives do their work. I saw marker comps on the walls, and those primitive drawings reminded me of some of the work I have seen in ad school. It gave me hope for my future. It shows you can take pretty simple ideas and eventually have them produced into effective advertising.

The creative directors who looked at my portfolio had good things to say, and they had lots of constructive criticism. It was worth the trip for that alone. I also met with many young creatives (most way younger than I) like myself and shared stories. It’s fun to look at the work other people are producing, and it gives one an idea about the competition.

The event was well catered. I ate tons of little pork tacos, and drank more than my share of the open bar. Toward the end of the night I met the woman who ran the catering. She is a British ex-pat about my own age with whom I discussed the awesomeness that is Doctor Who.

That night I left with the other two students from Minneapolis. We drove in the rental car provided by my art directors mother toward the hotel room paid for by his grandfather. It’s good to have connections kids. I heartily thank his family for all they did for us during our stay.

The next morning we awoke early so we could tour some ad agencies and to hopefully have another chance to show our books. One thing I was worried about on coming to LA, was that it was going to be hot. I never know how to present myself in the warmer climes. I’m suited to the chill of the Midwest. My style is largely based around the fact that I will be wearing a cardigan. But to my surprise it was a chilly weekend in LA. I was overjoyed at the sudden realization of cardigan weather. It’s like the gods themselves wanted to make my stay comfortable. I should also mention that while I was there I never saw any poor people. Not really. Maybe some of the busboys were poor, I couldn’t tell because they were in uniform. The host agency was upscale. The hotel we stayed in was a mile from the beach in Santa Monica. The other agencies we visited were in good neighbourhoods. My art directors family lived in the Pacific Palisades. Actually to get from our hotel to their house we had to travel through Brentwood. Brentwood for those of you old enough to remember the 90’s, was the place where that football star murdered those people a while back. Later my trip included dining in the Hollywood Hills and being dropped off in Beverly Hills. You may hear on the news that California is bankrupt, but I never saw any indication of anything other than luxury.

Back to the story. The first agency we visited was Saatchi & Saatchi. In LA their main client is Toyota. One of the art directors I was travelling with had an actual job interview there, and we joined in on the tour of the agency. It was a fun place to visit. Part of the tour took us into a video editing room where I made fast friends with one of the employees over his toys. We talked Star Wars in genuine Nerdese until I was forced to continue the tour. Later we found a bunch of creatives in an alcove watching the original Clash of the Titans. They claimed they were doing “research” and I bet they really were. I thought to myself that this is defiantly the line of work for me. Don’t get me wrong, everybody we met also talked of long hours and the pressure to produce amazing work. Still I felt a kinship with those folks.

The next stop was Chiat Day. This agency was truly amazing. It was huge. They had a basketball court in the middle of the place. This is where the iconic 1984 Apple Ad that aired during the Superbowl was created. There were dogs everywhere. We were then taken to a meeting alcove and given the opportunity to show our books to a resident art director and a copywriter. It was kind of scary but still quite worthwhile. I recently saw a movie called Art and Copy. There were many scenes filmed right there in the same place where I showed my book. It’s the kind of place I would give up my cardigan wearing habits to work at.

Afterwards we went to the Pacific Palisades and visited my friend’s family. His grandparents took us out to eat. Then his uncle and cousin took us to a cool bar near the ocean. It was a great end to a productive day.

The next day I met an old friend of mine. She had moved to LA a couple of years ago to be a screenwriter, and then she won an Oscar. It was great to see her. She is preggers, so we got to talk about kids. We also talked about the latest Star Trek, writing, and the possibilities of my band playing in LA. It was great to see her. She took me to lunch at her club. She was afraid they wouldn’t let her in because she was not in fancy clothes, but rather comfortable pregnant clothes. I looked down at myself and noted my crusty old checkered Vans, my camouflage pants, my Han Solo t-shirt, and my well worn green argyle cardigan. I was worried I didn’t look right either and she laughed and said everyone would probably think I was a producer. I’m not sure where she took me, but it was a rooftop cafĂ© snuggled within the Hollywood Hills. I would have been happy going to In and Out Burger, but this place was really amazing. The waiter treated me like royalty and I ordered every cocktail recommended. I was far away from my responsibilities so I was very elated to enjoy the moment to the fullest. Then she drove me to Beverly Hills where I was to meet up with the rest of my party. She felt guilty dropping me off half drunk in the middle of LA, but I assured her that Beverly Hills was probably the safest place to drop a half drunk person off. But I made her drop me off near a bar.

At the bar I learned my friends were trapped downtown on a shopping excursion. I drank a beer and decided that I didn’t care to play tourist in Beverly Hills. I asked the bartender how to get to Santa Monica, and she told me there was a bus just outside the bar that would get me there. Then she gave me the exact change for the fare. So within an hour of being in an exclusive club in the Hills with an academy award winner, I found myself on a bus heading towards the Santa Monica pier. The culture shock was palpable. The people on the bus were regular folks, workers, families, tourists on a shoestring, etc. Every ad on the bus seemed to be in Spanish too, which was okay since I can read Spanish. I arrived at Ocean Boulevard and got off the bus. I walked by street performers and headed to the water. The one downside to cardigan weather is that it really isn’t beach weather. I rolled up my pants and waded in the Pacific Ocean. It’s like a ritual pilgrimage of mine. Whenever I am close to an ocean I have to pay tribute. One time I paid that tribute to the Atlantic in Coney Island in November. That was a cold ocean.

That night our group went back to the pier and rode the Ferris Wheel. Then we headed back to the hotel and slept. The next morning we went to my friends grandparents house. His mother made us breakfast and we squeezed fresh orange juice from which we picked oranges off a tree in their backyard. After breakfast we shopped along Venice Beach. I bought a hat for my son that looks like and Indiana Jones hat. Then we were dropped off at the airport. When I arrived in Minneapolis it was hot. Cardigan weather was over and I took a 55 dollar cab ride home.

Being home was the best part of the trip. Travelling is wonderful, but holding my family is even better. I have never been much of an LA guy. It really hasn’t been a place I wanted to visit too badly, but I really had a great time there, and I want to return. Maybe someday I will work there and then I can feel the ocean breeze under the shade of a palm and have my family with me too. One can only dream. Though I would still miss the winter.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Lights, camera, action!

When we were kids, or at least when I was a kid, the family camera was a sacred thing. You were not allowed to touch it. The camera was my moms domain and she kept it on a very high shelf. The idea of even taking 1 simple picture was a laughable offense. "Film costs too much," my mother would say. And that was that. It was made very clear to me at an early age that the camera was not a toy.

When I was ten I decided to buy my own camera. This was considered a weird undertaking for a kid back in 1982. But I just wanted to have the chance to take all the fun and silly pictures I had always dreamed of. I thought my pictures would tell stories and be worthy of praise to the highest degree. I imagined that I would be making movies in still life. I could recreate Star Wars with kodak film and some action figures.

My first roadblock was my parents. They thought I didn't need to spend my paper route money on a frivolous purchase. Why couldn't I save my money like my brother? My brother never spent any money as a kid. If he wanted Van Halen's 1984 he would simply convince me to buy it, then he would reap all the benefits. (there is a lesson there. Hmmm?) Anyway I convinced my parents that $39.99 was a good deal for a camera. It was a disc camera. In the early 80's it was the cool new thing because it was cheap and you didn't need to load the film. Just snap the disc in place and you were ready to go. Wow! Fucking technology!

I proceeded to take all sorts of silly photos. I still have many of them in a special album I made. Before and after shots of me with a BB gun and then me with a bloody ketchup stained forehead. My pictures were never as much fun as I imagined, mainly because I would take them and then I would have to wait to develop them, which cost money. Then of course more film cost more money. I quickly was distracted toward other things. What I really wanted was a polaroid. Instant pictures! If only I could afford it. Sigh.

Years later, in my 20's, I bought a Polaroid and took tons of fun pictures. I took them with the same enthusiasm I had when I was ten, but I could see my great pieces of art instantly. It was amazing! At this point in history disposable cameras were all the rage, so if my wife and I went on vacation we just bought a couple cameras, used them up, and had them developed.

So here we are. In the future. the magical year 2000 is in the past. Now we have digital cameras. You can take as many pictures as you like, and you can see them instantly. It blows my 10 year old mind. So when my 4 year old son asks me if he can take a picture, I hand the camera to him and say, "go nuts." Kirk took a bunch of pictures. Most of them were of his own fingers or the TV. We've come a long way baby.