1. Coupons of Mystery!

    HERE’S SOMETHING that I was saving for a piece in Small Restaurateur and Bistroista I was going to call “Top Ten Mistakes New Small Restaurateurs and Bistroistas Make.” As you know, most new restaurants and bistros fail within their first year of business (It’s important to note, however, the same does not apply to cafes.) and I figured by using my expertise in this area, I might help a few new small restaurateurs and bistroistas avoid some of the pitfalls I’d avoid if I was foolish enough to open a new small restaurant or bistro. Especially in this economy.

    Sadly, Small Restaurateur and Bistroista never made it past their third issue and closed up shop just seven months after they started. Not uncommon, of course. Most new magazines fail within their first year of publishing (the exception, of course, being café-themed magazines).

    It’s just as well because these niche magazines don’t pay crap to freelancers, and these magic fingers usually don’t touch a keyboard for less than twelve dollars a word.  (Speaking of which, your monthly reading-my-blog bill is overdue, so if you can get a check off to me in the next day or so, that’d be great.)

    Also, I could only come up with one item, but I pitched it as a list of ten, and they were holding eight pages open for me. And I was like three weeks (or four or five, who knows?) past my deadline.  But like I said, these niche magazines don’t pay hardly nothing so I didn’t lose a lot of sleep over it. Though I didn’t answer the phone for a while.

    So here’s that one item:

    #4:  Include the Goddamn Name of Your
    Restaurant or Bistro on Your Damn Coupon!
    Look, there, Wolfgang, you were just browbeaten by some smarmy 22-year old into buying an ad in the “dining out section” of the local newspaper – itself a dying industry! Newspapers, not dining out sections!  Don’t get smart.

    So you spend all that money on your ad, and you include a coupon in it and then some anal-retentive freak like me clips your coupons right along the dotted line, as we’re legally obligated to, and then pins them on the Restaurant Coupon Board in the kitchen and then when I go to use it…? That’s right!

    No idea whatsoever what the hell it’s for!  None! Zip! Zilch!

    Two dollars off what?  Free entree where?  10% off who?

    That’s why your restaurant or bistro failed!  Okay, technically, it was that ridiculously discounted Groupon you were pressured to sign up for by some other kid in his early 20s that 4,673 people bought and redeemed two days later, coupled with all those negative reviews on Yel– …eh, on that social networking, user review, local search website that curiously started popping up after you declined to advertise with them that put the nail in your business’ coffin.

    But this newspaper coupon fiasco didn’t help!

    By the way, if anyone can identify what the hell restaurants these coupons are for, please let me know.  Before the expiration dates.  Unless these places are already out of business.  Then I don’t care.

    Posted by on April 22, 2011, 1:43 AM.

  2. Hair!

    AS MANY OF YOU KNOW, I cut my own hair. In fact, quite a number of you have asked me to send you some clippings, and a few lucky contest winners have been the recipients of a standard business-size envelope full of that week’s trimmings.

    Anyway, when someone like me – a regular Slovak hair factory here – insists on butchering his own scalp week after week after week after week, despite the subtle hints, overt pleas, and SuperCuts gift cards from friends and family, as well as odd smiles from strangers in public which I like to misinterpret as interest of a sexual nature no matter what these people look like – eventually that tiny vial of clipper oil that came with the hair cutting kit runs out.  So you go on the Braun website in an effort to find out where to buy more.  That is to say, I went on the Braun website in an effort to find out where to buy more.

    And so, look, I’m already on the site and the “bodygroom” section aroused my curiosity. Sure, I’m a man of the 90s.  So I click on it, and I see this:

    Hoo boy.  Well, I hope they paid him well.  You just know that poor guy told whoever was in charge of grooming the models for the shoot, “As soon as the photographer gets the shot, I want you back over here with a razor because there’s no way in hell I’m going home like this.”

    And to those of you who say, “Oh, please, Ted, we’ve seen you without your shirt on and you’ve manscaped your chest hair into a bullseye!” To those of you who say that, I’d like to remind you that’s my goddamn ringworm rash and thank you for bringing attention to it, as if it’s not humiliating enough just suffering with it and now, now being forced to talk about it on my blog. And for your information,  I can’t trim the hair there because it’s a series of raised bumps and if I go over it with the clipper, it bleeds like a bastard.  Then they won’t let me into the showers at the gym. Well, because of that and the other reason.

    Posted by on April 21, 2011, 1:43 AM.

  3. Look What Was On My Door!

    HEY, check this out!

    This was hanging on my door.
    It’s called a “door hanger” by the boys on Madison Avenue.
    In this case, this door hanger advertises a cary out special.

    Boy, she’s really enjoying that pizza, huh?

    Now, here’s the thing.  This isn’t the first time they’ve advertised a cary out special on a door hanger.  They did the same thing a few months ago.  They spelled “Hawaiian” correctly that time, too!

    And I like their religious logo, too, even if it makes the second word look like “ptus.”

    Am I going to get sued for putting this thing here?  Can someone check on this for me?  I don’t need any more problems.

    Okay, let’s look at the bottom half of their door hanger.
    You know, the one advertising their cary out special.

    Gee, that lasagna looks good, huh?

    And the calzone looks like something that was crawling on my geranium one rainy morning after I poked it with a twig and it retracted its eyestalks. And by that I mean it also looks delicious, of course.

    I like how each illustrated menu item is in a completely different degree of focus than the next.  You can see this much better on the actual cary out special door hanger, but since it’s here and you’re there, and I do not want company today, you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

    But seriously…? I’ve bought food here and it’s awesome! I’ve had delivery from here and also ordered cary out. It’s the best food in whatever area it is that this place is located!  I highly recommend them! And they get high marks on both Yelp and some other local restaurant review website.

    Look, I just got a kick out of their cary out special door hanger is all.

    Posted by on April 14, 2011, 1:04 AM.

  4. On Location – with Sears!

    REMEMBER that issue of “Good Housekeeping” that we were talking about last week?* Well, there was this pretty big advertising section in the front from Sears. Sure, Sears – where America shops for value. They bought like ten or twelve pages! Look, I don’t remember exactly how many; I’ve since thrown the damn thing out, which is what you do with a magazine when you’re done with it. (Great, I’ve probably made Nana Parsnips cry again*.)

    *See previous post. —ed.

    Okay, so ten to twelve pages is an enormous amount of advertising in a national magazine. And Sears! Back in the late 1970s, they were still pretty big. They were the only game in town, sure! This section was page after page after page of home furnishings – bedroom sets and like that. But here’s what I enjoyed, and therefore, you will too: You see, they took some of the photogra–  Look, why don’t I just show you?

    Here’s what I, and now you, get a kick out of. They didn’t take these photographs in a studio and then superimpose them over an outdoor photo. They didn’t even dress an indoor set to make it look outdoors. No, folks, they actually took all this furniture, set it up, and then made the beds – outside!

    Look at that rug out there – they actually laid it down on the ground! On the sandy, dusty ground! Someone propped up those windows there on the rocks! And the beds, well, I’d like to believe someone, like a Teamster maybe, set up the beds and then someone else, like a housekeeper, came along and made them. Regardless, they shot all this outside.

    And you may not be able to see it as clearly in these photos as you can looking at the actual full-size pages, but I’m telling you, these were definitely shot outside.

    Oh, we’re not done yet – there’s more!

    Look at that! It looks like they shot this out at Vasquez Rocks! I was going to make “Vasquez Rocks” a link, but you’re either familiar with it or you’re not. In fact, it looks little like Vasquez Rocks, I just wanted to tie these pictures to a specific place to make this thing read even more interesting. Well, it looks like the desert, anyway. God only knows how many poisonous insects they brought home with them in all the bedding and mattresses when they packed up at the end of the day.

    Let’s continue, hmm?

    “Delightful” is right! They set up this stuff out in the middle of some stream! Some poor jackass had to tromp around, hopefully for him in hip waders, and carry that whole sink / window combo through the water, and then balance it out there in the swamp.One wrong step on a slippery, algae covered rock and your entire day is shot as your vanity with its ruffled valance and tiebacks go floating down the mighty Mississipp’ while you’re frantically pulling off leeches and toe biters!

    Okay, I saved the best for last:

    Look at that! So they set up the bed out in God-knows-where – I mean, it’s very pretty, of course, but it’s God-knows-where -and then they have a model get in it and pretend to be sleeping.

    You know what I’d like to think (and feel free to want to think this, too) – I’d like to think that she really is sleeping because there was no Teamster, there was no housekeeper – she’s the one that had to lug all that furniture off the truck and out into the meadow, the marsh, and the desert. The poor woman’s exhausted! But my God, to be able to add this shot to her professional portfolio!

    I wonder if she took off her hip waders before she got into bed? Me, I would have kept them on. Much less skin exposed to deer ticks. Take it from me: ten minutes after that bed was set up, the sheets were crawling with them. I mean, look, there’s grass right up against the dust ruffle. That’s where they wait for you (and deer). In the grass, not on dust ruffles. Don’t even get me started on the mosquitoes out there – I mean, it’s right by the water. And the horse flies, too, probably.  Big as your thumb they were, likely, and landing right on her hair and biting down right into her scalp. My head would have been under those covers, screw my portfolio!

    Who the hell okayed this whole ad campaign? My God, I love it.

    Posted by on April 12, 2011, 2:07 AM.

  5. Dear God in Heaven, That’s Dick Van Dyke!

    HERE’S something disturbing.

    As regular readers to this blog know, my beloved Nana Parsnips is something of a hoarder. It’s my secret shame. Well, it’s not really much of a secret now is it? Especially since I’ve told you.  And we all know how well you can keep a secret. Remember the time you bumped into me at Smart & Final and I couldn’t think fast on my feet so I just told you why I was buying all that cranberry juice? I guess I just didn’t expect you to post it on Facebook forty minutes later. But that’s all water under the bridge.

    Anyway, no, the fact that she’s a hoarder isn’t disturbing – on the contrary! We’ve all seen hoarders on TV and I know I speak for you all when I say, “Well, wouldn’t it be great if someone in my family was saddled with some chronic emotional problem or mental illness that outwardly manifested itself in classic hoarding behavior to the point that I could save $89 a month by getting rid of that stupid storage unit and just move all my excess crap into her living room, on account of, what the hell, it’s not like she’s going to notice the difference?”

    Indeed, I speak for all of you when I say that. But in my case, I’m living the dream.

    So I’m there last week, and was looking for a little something to read for later that morning when I had to sit in the car waiting for another never-ending appointment with her damn nephrologist, sure, and decided on an issue of “Good Housekeeping.” And yes, I made sure to point out the irony there, which of course made her cry. But what the hell, who among you could resist zinging her with that one? That’s right – none of you! Awright then.

    But I wanted a clean issue, so I had to dig down to the 1978 stratum to get one not covered with cat fæces or mummified cats, for that matter. Or mummified cat fæces, for that matter.

    Man, that æ dealie sure makes fæces look real elegant, huh? That’s some high-class fæces there. Dignified. In a word, yes!, dignified. Nothing makes plain, run-of-the-mill, garden variety feces look sophisticated like the ol’ æ!

    Where was I?

    Anyway, yes, so there I am digging through the mummified cat fæces and I uncover a nice clean thirty-three year old copy of “Good Housekeeping.” A delightful and fresh-faced Debbie Boone graced the cover.

    So I’m flipping through, and I see this:

    And it doesn’t register at first, but then, with mounting horror I realize,

    Dear God in Heaven, that’s Dick Van Dyke!

    I’m serious! No, that’s not a woman! Look closer, man! That’s Dick Van Dyke!

    Look!   Look!

    He looks like your aunt! He looks like my aunt! I mean, not any specific aunt of mine, God forbid; he just looks like someone’s aunt! He looks like someone’s aunt in the 1970s!

    This is the sophicated, urbane Rob Petrie we’re talking about here! What happened to the poor man in the twelve years since “The Dick Van Dyke Show” went off the air (not to mention the four years since “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” went off the air) that turned him into this? He’s got a lady’s hairdo! He’s wearing a blouse! That’s no Hawaiian shirt, it’s a g_dd_mn blouse, and you know it!   It’s a blouse!

    And that’s not the worst of it.

    This is:

    What the hell is that?

    Why is Dick Van Dyke in drag for Kodak instant cameras? I mean, he’s not merely camping it up in that photo, he’s become a woman! He’s wearing tangerine slacks! And the blouse! And  don’t forget the hairdo – the lady’s hairdo!

    Dick kind of redeems himself in the last picture in the ad; he looks more like himself in that one, the Dick Van Dyke we all know and love, but I’m not bothering with a closeup of that image here. (Scroll up if you must.) It might take away from the fact that in the other pictures, he looks just like a woman!

    And yet, here he is in a toy commercial which incidentally seems strangely aimed at parents rather than their children (“Chutes Away is so much fun your kids may never stop playing it.”), where he’s basically the same likably goofy Oh, Rob!-type with more gray in his hair. Oddly, both the commercial and the  print ad are from 1978. At least I think they are. You people don’t pay me enough to hire someone to actually research all this stuff. But according to some vintage game website, the toy’s from 1978, so it follows that the commercial’s from the same year. Probably.

    If you take anything away from all of this, let it be how to use the æ symbol and make your fæces shine. And I forget how I did it, which mystical combination of pressed keys makes it appear as though by magic; I’ve just been pasting it in there since the first one I used. You might want to make a few copies for yourself and take them with you.

    Fæces. Free from me to you.  Chutes away!

    Posted by on April 7, 2011, 1:00 AM.

  6. Book Club Wednesday: The Large Ant, Indeed!

    TODAY’S book club selection is “The Edge of Tomorrow” by Howard Fast. This is available in paperback from Bantam Books for 45¢ at, I think it was that thrift store on Sherman Way in Reseda across from CVS. Ignore the “Book Castle” price tag on it, that’s old. I’m pretty sure it’s only 45¢. Well, it was, anyway. I bought the only copy they had.

    The thing is, folks, if you’re going to be part of this book club, it’s going to eventually become evident if it hasn’t already that you’re going to have to get to the thrift store before me.

    Anyway, a little background on Howard Fast: Howard Fast was—  You know what? You know how to use Wikipedia. I’m not cluttering up this post up with a biography; besides, I think the hosting company I use charges me by the word. That’s how they do it, right?

    Okay, let’s get this show on the road:  “The Edge of Tomorrow.” Okay.  Okay.

    Awright, here we go.

    It’s got this enormous freaking ant on the cover!

    If that doesn’t entice you to pick up this book and spend 45¢ on it, I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you, but get off my website.

    I’m kidding, I’m kidding! Come back here. You’re the only one who’s been here all week.

    Okay, all month.

    Anyway, look at that ant! Look at that big ol’ hairy ant! And I’m not talking about the Italian woman your uncle married, hey-o!

    I’m kidding! Get back here! Get back here, sit down, have some coffee. Let’s talk ants.

    Now look carefully and you’ll see three people cowering in terror beneath the giant ant. Well, wouldn’t you cower? The thing’s as big as a house!

    So I did some figuring and I’ve decided that an average man is about, what, 5’9”…? (You and me, though, we’re taller.  I did say “average.”) Regardless, I’m estimating those three poor bastards at about five-nine in height. Got it? Then I took a piece of paper and marked off the height of the tallest guy, and then counted how many of him it would take to reach the top of the ant. Look, this was all very scientific and mathematical and I can’t get into it here. It’s much too complex to explain. Long story short, I estimate that monster ant on the cover to be about thirty-one feet, nine inches tall. Got it? 31’9”.

    Inside the book there are seven short stories. The second one is titled “The Large Ant.”

    Large?!

    Again, can we have another shot of the cover, please?

    No?

    Okay, fine, scroll up if you need to. The thing isn’t large; it’s enormous! It’s behemothic! It’s gargantuan, cyclopean, and any of another two dozen synonyms for ‘gigantic’ which I won’t list here because I can’t afford another huge word bill at the end of the month from JoyHost LLC.

    So you can imagine, having plunked down 45¢ for this this, my stomach’s already feeling a little unsettled reading the title “The Large Ant.” And then I get to page 37!

    Am I allowed to transcribe stuff here?  Is that legal…? You’re sure…?  Okay.

    And then I get to page 37!

    “…It’s the first time I saw an ant fourteen, fifteen inches long.  I hope it’s the last.”

    Well, for God’s sake, I don’t! I hope they just keep getting bigger! Because “fourteen, fifteen inches long” does not equal “thirty-one feet, nine inches tall.” And this isn’t ruining anything; you wouldn’t be here in the book club if you hadn’t read it, too – so as you know, that’s it! One lousy “large” ant that isn’t even a foot and a half long!

    What are these paperback publishers trying to do to us with artwork on the cover that bears no resemblance to the story inside? Isn’t there some law against this? Well, this is exactly what internet petitions are for, so I need you to get started on that, but for the love of Christ, let’s not do double work and have multiple petitions going around there because it’s just going to be more work for me and I’ll have to spend hours checking for duplicate names and then even more time and effort to consolidate them all into one cohesive document before my attorney will even look at it.

    In the meantime, I need any of you who knows Bennett Cerf to get in touch with him. He lives in Mt. Kisco, New York, I think. Do we have anyone here from Mt. Kisco?

    Posted by on April 6, 2011, 1:02 AM.

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