Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Parking Spot Next to the Front Door

“You could sell sawdust to a lumber mill,” said my boss as he threw his arm around Byron’s shoulders.

The team applauded as Byron held up the contract he had just gotten signed.

Byron was the top dog in the sales department and he wore his status like a custom made suit.

He was charming, smooth, and persuasive.

And he had a cool car that lived in the parking place reserved for the salesperson of the month.

The parking spot next to the front door

That day, even though I was a rookie kid, I set myself a goal to outsell him and to take over that parking spot.

I hit that goal after 7 months and, from that point on, I consistently outperformed him. 

At the time I think I was more excited about the parking spot than the commission.


One afternoon, one of the guys in production asked me how I kept getting the high-profile spot.

“The rep with the highest sales for the month gets to park there,” I said.

“I thought Byron was the number one salesperson.”

“Byron’s a superstar.”

“Then why do you get the spot?”


“Byron closes a lot of deals with the companies that the boss says, ‘Those guys’ll never buy.’”

“The boss must love that.”


“Then how come you always get the spot.”

“I sell to businesses that want and need our stuff.”

Byron was a star and the boss loved that he'd bring in high profile accounts that were considered impossible to sell.

But Byron's accounts would drop off when they didn't get results. Mine would stick around 'cause we worked for them.

So I sold more than the rock star. And I got the parking spot next to the front door.

And, although, like everybody, I was impressed with Byron's style, I learned that I could do better by targeting businesses that wanted and needed what I was selling.

Now I'm a copywriter. 

So I'm still selling. 

And if anybody tells me, "You could sell sawdust to a lumber mill," I'll be mildly offended and say, "But I wouldn't."

Monday, November 27, 2023

Writers Trash Talking Other Writers

How would you like your writing to be reviewed by best-selling, award-wining writers?

Not so much based on these opinions famous authors such as Hemingway, Faulkner, and Twain offered on the works of other famous authors like Orwell, Rowling, and Kerouac.

Buckle your seatbelt ... it's about to get nasty.

Friedrich Nietzsche on Plato: Plato was a bore.”

Leo Tolstoy on 
Friedrich Nietzsche: “Nietzsche was stupid and abnormal.”

Virginia Woolf on James Joyce: "[Ulysses is] the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples."


Mark Twain on Jane Austen: "I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone." 


William Faulkner on Ernest Hemingway: 

"No courage. Never been known to use a word that might send the reader to a dictionary."


Ernest Hemingway on William Faulkner: 

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"


Robert Louis Stevenson on Walt Whitman: "Like a large shaggy dog, just unchained, scouring the beaches of the world and baying at the moon."


Oscar Wilde on Alexander Pope: "There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope."


Cyril Connolly on George Orwell: "He could not blow his nose without moralising on the state of the handkerchief industry."


Katherine Mansfield on E.M. Forrester: "[Howard's End] is not good enough. E.M. Forster never gets any further than warming the teapot. He's a rare fine hand at that. Feel this teapot. Is it not beautifully warm? Yes, but there ain't going to be no tea." 

Ernest Hemingway and Harold Robbins

Harold Robbins on Ernest Hemingway:
“Hemingway was a jerk.”


Edmund Wilson on Evelyn Waugh: "His style has the desperate jauntiness of an orchestra fiddling away for dear life on a sinking ship." 

Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac: "None of these people [in the Beat Generation] have anything interesting to say, and none of them can write, not even Mr. Kerouac. It's not writing, it's typing."


Tom Stoppard on Bertolt Brecht: "Personally I would rather have written Winnie-the-Pooh than the collected works of Brecht." 


D.H. Lawrence on Herman Melville: 

"Nobody can be more clownish, more clumsy and sententiously in bad taste, 
than Herman Melville, even in a great book like 'Moby-Dick…"



Evelyn Waugh on Marcel Proust: "I am reading Proust for the first time. Very poor stuff. I think he was mentally defective."


Henry James on Edgar Allan Poe: "[To take Poe] with more than a certain degree of seriousness is to lack seriousness one's self. An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection."


Ernest Hemingway on T.S. Eliot: "If I knew that by grinding Mr. Eliot into a fine dry powder and sprinkling that powder over [Joseph] Conrad's grave Mr. Conrad would shortly appear.... I would leave for London tomorrow morning with a sausage grinder."


Howard Bloom on J.K. Rowling: "How to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone? Why, very quickly, to begin with, perhaps also to make an end. Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do."


Norman Mailer and Jack Kerouac

Norman Mailer on Jack Kerouac:
"His rhythms are erratic, his sense of character is nil,
and he is as pretentious as a rich whore,
sentimental as a lollypop."


Dame Edith Sitwell on Virginia Woolf: "Virginia Woolf's writing is no more than glamorous knitting. I believe she must have a pattern somewhere."

Vladimir Nabokov on Ernest Hemingway: "I read him for the first time in the early Forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it."


Gore Vidal on Truman Capote: He's a full-fledged housewife from Kansas with all the prejudices.


Flannery O’Connor on Ayn Rand: 

"The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get… 
I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway 
and threw it in the nearest garbage pail.
She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky."



Martin Amis on Miguel de Cervantes: "Reading Don Quixote can be compared to an indefinite visit from your most impossible senior relative, with all his pranks, dirty habits, unstoppable reminiscences, and terrible cronies." 


Gustave Flaubert on Honoré de Balzac: "What a man Balzac would have been if he had known how to write." 


Vladimir Nabokov on Joseph Conrad: "I cannot abide Conrad's souvenir shop style and bottled ships and shell necklaces of romanticist clichés."


Ruth Rendell on Agatha Christie: "To say that Agatha Christie's characters are cardboard cut-outs is an insult to cardboard cut-outs." 


Mark Twain and William Faulkner

William Faulkner on Mark Twain:
[A] hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe,
who tricked out a few of the old proven 'sure fire' literary skeletons
with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.

Tom Wolfe on Ernest Hemingway: "People always think that the reason he's easy to read is that he is concise. He isn't. I hate conciseness — it's too difficult. The reason Hemingway is easy to read is that he repeats himself all the time, using 'and' for padding."


Gertrude Stein on Ezra Pound: "A village explainer. Excellent if you were a village, but if you were not, not."

H.G. Wells on George Bernard Shaw: “An idiot child screaming in a hospital.”

Well, that was brutal ... somebody grab a rag and start mopping up the blood.

Friday, November 17, 2023

All Hat, No Cattle

All sizzle, no steak.

All bark, no bite.

All foam, no beer.

All booster, no payload.

All wick, no wax.

All icing, no cake. 

All show, no go.

I’ve met more than a few people in business who fit what one of my former clients, Chaz Carey, called  "pigeons in peacock feathers."

That being said, there are also many people I've run into in my business life who offer far more that what you'd expect from their low-key presentation.

More of the latter and the less of the former, please.

Friday, November 10, 2023

View from a Café. Cinque Terre (Part 2)

Parked at a sidewalk café sipping cappuccino I drink in the flavor of the town with the parade of passers by.

Frothingham in Chinque Terre

A torrent of Italian words accompanied by a flurry of gestures as an old man communicates an unobserved transgression to a young man.

An aggressive cadre of pigeons patrol for dropped food. Large pieces get shaken, tossed, and fought over. An effective but inefficient city beautification program.

The hiking poles seem unnecessary considering his muscular legs could easily be mistaken for tree trunks.

Punctuated with brief comments in French, each drag on her cigarette is like Snoop Dog maximizing a bong hit. After grinding the butt on the cobblestones with the toe of her ASICS, she takes 3 pulls on a vape pen and then lights up another cigarette.

One is showing off her athleticism with a a second skin of spandex. One is hiding her lack of it in jean shorts and a flowing top. One is attacking the steep incline; one is defending against it. 

His fanny pack looks like his belt swallowed an opossum.

OK? Stop. OK. No. OK? Stop. Now. OK. Two years old with the pout of a supermodel. And the communications style of a master drill sergeant.

Two wiener dogs. One longhair. One short hair. Joyful to be out on a walk. They show no additional appreciation that they are in a destination where the wealthy park their super yachts.

For every fried shrimp he maneuvers from the paper cone to his mouth, one bounces off his belly on to the cobblestones. Companion mortified. Pigeons ecstatic.

That sunburn has to hurt. In a cartoon there would be wavy lines representing radiating heat.

Alligator shoes, perfectly tailored azure suit, crimson tie and crisp pink shirt leads the eye up to designer sunglasses and mousse saturated hair. An island in a sea of tourists in t-shirts and sun dresses.

"You're the one who chose the date," the tour guide explains into his phone. "I am here, you are not. There is no refund." After an extended pause, he speaks again, "You chose the date. You can complain to no one. I am here. You are not. There will be no refund."

"Bambina!" The delighted old woman exclaims as she pulls the infant towards here and plants a loud kiss on the top of its head. Has she not seen her grandchild in months or minutes?


Join me for coffee in Amsterdam: View from a sidewalk cafe. Amsterdam.


NOTE: Cinque Terre is actually 5 different villages. I've combined the highlights of café sitting observations from three of them (Monterosso, Vernazza, and Manarola) and nearby Porto Fino over 4 days in June 2023.

The Parking Spot Next to the Front Door

“You could sell sawdust to a lumber mill,” said my boss as he threw his arm around Byron’s shoulders. The team applauded as Byron held up th...