GREETINGS from “one of the better auto care places in Portland.” That according to Atomic Auto’s new promotional video—a laughably modest claim for a shop that gives customers cushy loaner cars, fresh eggs, even beer while they wait). I’m hanging in the lobby while AA’s wild-man owner, whom I’m visiting, oversees the armada of Swedish vehicles crowding his shop and flowing out around the block.
I am atypically without schedule or agenda, which feels nice. As I lounge in a reappropriated Saab seat, I was just handed a 22-oz. bottle of Ninkasi IPA (“don’t drink three of those, it’ll fuck you up”; taking his word for it). For the moment at least, the trajectory of my afternoon seems clear.
> Mates of State – Along for the ride
I’M PACKING FOR MY SECOND LEFT-COAST FORAY IN A WEEK. The first one found me sweating in a snack-strewn L.A. conference room for two days, struggling to ask clear-headed questions on unfamiliar topics (the social media habits of empty nesters; anti-piracy safeguards; European adoption of Blu-ray Disc… Feeling sleepy? One of our German hosts, badly jetlagged, nearly rolled out of her chair).
I unloaded the resulting slew of campaign concepts for that project today, putting me a giant step closer to a weekend in Portland free of deadlines or anything whatsoever about User Scenarios. In an email from PDX today came this, a testament to my friends’ enduring ability to obliterate work-think (through the power of repulsion if nothing else):
So three tuned-out days, then back to business. I got a warm lead this week for a marketing gig at a suburban Catholic school. A certain electronics retailer needs a fancy press kit. There’s a new website for Soccer Moms that might want me to ghost-write its blog for a Cable-famous financial guru.
I am, of course, grateful for these calls. But I’m struck—again—by the randomness of my job. I’ve played it for laughs (and mortgage payments and SEP contributions) for 10 years, but the lack of focus often feels confusing. Is the joke on me?
I do have moments of clarity. In Cali I had to go out for razors and ended up getting those over-sharp triple-blade models, standard since the middle of the last decade though I’d somehow never tried them. Dabbing at the fresh cuts on my neck, it struck me: I just don’t do new. I only come around to that which everyone else has let go.
I’ve written about this before. Is my calling to be a committed and articulate advocate for Last Year’s Model? I have a half-baked idea for a magazine called OBSOLETE: an appreciation of objects and formats that are out of production but still discoverable by the dedicated few.
Selling reviews of stuff you can’t buy may qualify as the world’s shittiest business plan. So I guess that makes it an art project.
> Roxy Music – Mother of Pearl
THE WINTER GAMES are boasting sky-high ratings at our house (I think Sarah’s rewatched the Joni Mitchell segment of the Opening Ceremony several times online). I’m not known for my love of televised sports, but this time I’m seeing past the canned patter, trumped-up redemption narratives, cloying human interest drivel and gross over-packaging to that glimmer of … oh who am I kidding. The Olympics blow utterly.
I’ve got a welcome new gig out in Pasadena this week. Software people again, but after last year’s Microsoft marathon, I’m prepared for all the esoteric vocab: dog-fooding, OEM, CRM, scrubbing, CAGR—bring it on. It’s a product for media-hording, middle-aged geeks, which, while new to me, hits closer to home than I care to admit.
Switching focus, here’s a grab bag of recent Johanna pics (this WordPress gallery function is whacked, but you can click stretched images to open them in a new window; bow down to my technical mastery).
> A woman at the bonfire behind Palmer’s pulled me aside and accused me of being a Republican (not the first time! Is it the hair? Or my resemblance to T-Paw?), which, while not technically illegal, is apparently banned on the premises. After telling me I need to calm down (I hadn’t said anything, but I may have looked alarmed) she speculated admiringly about the manly endowment of my friend Scott. She hugged me in her puffy coat as I left.
> I met my 89-year-old grandfather’s girlfriend Betty at dinner in Prairie du Chien, where we go for prime rib when I visit. He called her “goatface” and other mildly shocking terms of affection, as he used to do to my grandmother. More shocking, Betty didn’t seem to mind. She promised for my next visit she would have fine Italian beef sandwiches sent from Chicago, which I hope she remembers to do.
> At U Otter Stop Inn, which serves up karaoke to mostly indifferent patrons seven days a week, a sinewy, fierce-looking man wearing logos of extreme fighting sports sang lithe renditions of Sinatra and pop-country hits of the 90s. After singing some really crummy Bon Jovi, the bar’s other star performer put everyone in our (admittedly sorry-ass) troop to shame with a high-flying version of “These Eyes.” He was far too young to have heard the song in its radio heyday. I’ve had a hard time getting it out of my head.
> An evening of shenanigans in Dinkytown and West Bank to celebrate Lucas’s 38th birthday began with heaping plates of beef and tofu at Hong Kong Noodle, detoured into an unanticipated and understated performance by Slim Dunlap over tall glasses of Jamesons (yipes!), and wound down with a ill-advised second Chinese meal at midnight (I’m still in the thrall of an MSG-thickened hangover). Parting shot: watching Scott squeeze his lumberjack body through the small rear window of his pickup in heavy snow at 1AM. Drive safe!
IN CASE YOU WONDERED, inhabiting virtual worlds 24/7 has a downside. Our brains aren’t equipped to handle it all (though our kids’ might be). That according to last night’s panicky episode of Frontline in which a long-time advocate for fully wired living asks scientists, educators and businesspeople to confirm his hunch that 10+ hours a day of flickering media stimulation is more draining than empowering, and that the fleeting sensation of mastery it provides edges out deeper satisfactions.
I didn’t need to be told this.
Lately my media diet has left me feeling grasping and needy. I have way more avenues to share an opinion than I have actual opinions. A frantic desire for “presence” leads to exhausting cycles of posting, cross-linking and commenting, predicated on recycled content of dubious substance: Has Selleck Waterfall Sandwich been posted here today? Is Whythefuckdoyouhaveakid.com an apt ripost in this thread, even if it hasn’t been updated in days? Is my lack of interest in ____ (insert #vikings/#lost/#broganmpls) a tweetable sentiment in and of itself, or proof of my irrelevance?
And then there’s my blog: shots fired into a vacuum on a platform that flamed out in 2004. I might as well be fomenting a flash mob. In the spirit of retro squareness, maybe I’ll go sing karaoke tonight.
> Jay Z – Lost Ones (Feat. Chrissette Michelle)