It’s very personal

Imagine it's someone you care deeply for when you're justifying business practices. In my head I sometimes see Grandpa Juan.

Imagine it’s someone you care deeply for when you’re justifying business practices. In my head I sometimes see Grandpa Juan.

I never fail to surprise myself when I catch myself saying “It’s not personal, it’s business.” When in reality all business is personal and emotions come into play at every touch point.

It has always been this way. When I was in high school and my history teacher, Mrs. Miller talked about how hunter-gatherers would trade from the early agrarian societies that was business in its purest form. A fair exchange based on value and trust. And in middle school, when I traded my peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a school lunch ticket, it was very personal.

Why is business now about a balance of power? Holding the “consumer” at arm’s length. Making the transaction between them and us. Brands and consumers. I refuse to accept the use of currency as an excuse. Go back just one generation and the local grocer knew that at a basic level.

When did people stop being people and become, traffic, customers, users, members, followers or a target audience?

The people I want to do business with, the ones I want to connect with and am hoping will respond are not just labels in my marketing vocabulary or a share of their wallets to be transacted with.

They are my friends, my family, and these people deserve to be treated like it’s personal. Because when I make a connection with them it becomes person. No matter how they rationalize their buying decision. It is personal to them and it should be to you.

Hope is no way to do business

What is your customer really looking for?

What is your customer really looking for?

We have a tiny farmers market in Redlands every Saturday morning. Each week these small local farmers show up and hope. They hope that someone might come by and buy something. And then hope even more that they will fall in love with their produce and become their customer for life. The sellers show items that any passer-by might want, usually the same produce that they could get somewhere else if they weren’t going to buy it on impulse between 9am and 1pm on this Saturday.

The girl selling honey has a different strategy. She understands the worldview of the hipsters and grandmas who come to buy her honey. They don’t really want honey; they want to feel more connected to the world. They want a story. And honey from the daughter of a World War II veteran who returned from the war and only wanted to raise bees and produce organic, unrefined, unfiltered, single crop honey has a cool factor. And that she is helping him live his dream even now is a great, feel good story.

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The honey maker knows her customers and what makes them tick before she sets up her stall, and she creates special offerings just for them. And people line up to pay for her stories she tells.

It shows me that understanding your customers is a better strategy than hope.

LA is the world to me

My world is a whore, and Los Angeles is the pussy of the world.

Holly-world squats and spreads its legs, and, again, Los Angeles is the dank sex you see revealed, wet and fragrant with a thousand odors both delicious and pungent. It is my source of some of my lushest of pleasures and it is a breeding ground for every vile disease known to God.

I love LA.

The pussy of the world, I like the sound of that.

That’s all right with me. I like pussy and I love LA.

There are a million names for my world, a million vivid descriptions: LA the Gangsta, LA the jealous, LA the Vicious, it is the eater of young souls, the destroyer of everyone’s hopes and dreams. But to me she always has been and will remain LA the gorgeous, the one and only, she stirs my imagination and fills my heart. With love.

I always find refuge on her streets. She is the goddess of today. The princess of yesterday. The queen of the future. She can riot and kill and burn and still awaken again tomorrow, rise up, and be beautiful.

No one in Los Angeles can say for sure what made the dead souls start wandering the streets. Whenever I venture there, I can never tell the living from the dead.

Los Angeles is a city relatively unsurprised to see anything, and takes no special notice to see the dead walk and feed on the streets. In the nightclubs. And in the stores. It has seen it happen for almost a hundred years. This new twist is nothing new.

My favorite place is on Sunset at sunset where I can see the best and worst of Hollywood. Sunset is painfully beautiful in the light of the setting sun. The last rays melt into the sky like a Tequila Sunrise. The nightclubs raise their lights into the fading orange sky.

Tonight is Friday. The thirteenth. With a full moon. A time for lunacy. I see an occasional transient scuttle past, the earthly remnants of my city. Above, in the hills, fires begin to burn. The lights of ground stars. I can see where families cast their shadows on the open windows. Light scatters towards my holy land.

People can carry within their hearts their fear of strangers, of the strangeness of everything, but not everyone wants to be one of the dead. I walk along the city streets. The breeze carries the pungent aroma of my love. I think back to Texas. And I realize how many years ago that was. When I’m well away from Sunset, I wander back into the maze of narrow streets and alleyways that lead toward the ocean.

A warm breeze blows in from Santa Monica and sighs its way through the winding streets to me. It feels very late now. I hear the murmur of voices in a rhythm of my footfalls. The low voices call to me, telling me to wander into the wrong neighborhood. But, this is my town, there are no right and no wrong neighborhoods.

I cross more streets and find myself. The streets are always unfamiliar in my town, and I can find myself in places I had no idea were there anywhere. As I walk closer to the little shacks they call stores. I watch the doors open and close. I begin to listen.

The smells reach me before the women. To spend your life in Los Angeles is to be attacked by a thousand odors that are pleasant and disgusting, the stink of shit and urine and garbage, the sweet scents of perfume and clean skin and ocean air.

I come down from the ride and see them. The beggars and street urchins. The flotsam and jetsam of my beloved. Those dead things that have always been more alive than the rich and famous. Slowly they turn towards me and stare through me. At this moment I feel alive.

I feel the beckoning of my love. Come. Be part of me and live forever. I can’t remember turning to run. But I know I did. As the sky begins to glow with pools of light I find myself. I wander through the wasteland of graffiti and garbage. There seems to be hundreds of abandoned houses and cars. And many more dreams cast aside here. It is LA’s forest primeval. After a time I realize I’m back home. Once again in the suburbs. I walk for a while in that watery light that fills the darkness before the sun finally breaks free of the shadows of the night. I slide down the embankment and feel my way up to my cul-d-sac. On to the street where I feel as safe as any child in his mother’s arms. I let the sun rise.

Los Angeles is gone again. And I feel safe as the dreams drift over me like leaves from a fall breeze. I am safe even here, on the outskirts of my city. The city of love. The pussy of the world. I am safe from the living dead that walk among us.


LA is my love

LA is my love

For now.


Mike and Math


I woke up from a sound sleep last night with an upset stomach. It growled like an angry grizzly bear annoyed by some hipster campers trying to get a wi-fi connection near his personal salmon stream. I got up and looked around in my cabinets for something, anything to keep my puke record untarnished.

I found nothing.

I headed back to bed with a delicate and cautious step. I hurt even worse now – this was not the time for Pepto-Bismol to be missing. I felt like one of those bad actors on a late night TV commercial, acid reflux bubbling up like old faithful at Yosemite. Then when he takes his Previcid, everything is better and the world is a great place to live again. I love television.

While the next 45 minutes, 2700 seconds, of uncomfortable sleeplessness passed, one queasy second at a time, I counted.

Why? I don’t know.

Sometime you just get delirious when you’re sick and want it to be over. You want to be back in Neverland, asleep, especially when no meds of any kind are to be found. At least I do. So I counted. I counted LEDs on my laptop screen, square footage of my house, miles to work. The quickest way to the mall, and the vision that came to me was remarkable. Mrs. Catoe, my high school Algebra teacher, her shriveled face and bee-hive hair swirled in my head like a fast break on my best friends pool table when we tried to pretend we were hustlers in a movie.

Finally, I fell asleep.

When I woke up this morning, all seemed fine. A-okay.

I wondered if counting could be my new cure all my disorders. “I can count on Sesame Street’s Count for relief,” I joked with myself. And even though it wasn’t clever, I still chucked to myself.

Close call last night.

I laid in bed for a few minutes listening to the “too ugly for TV” DJs banter back and forth over the beginning of Madonna’s Papa don’t preach song, waiting for a possible abdominal disruption. Just in case something was hiding out from the night before, like a sneaky commando in the trenches of my innards, getting ready to toss a little grenade of gurgle.

While I waited it came to me that Mikey had swiped my Pepto about three months ago. And counting again, I figured it was 87 days, or more precisely…2092 hours earlier.

He has rushed in after a night of alcohol, calling and checking that I was awake. Complaining of his imminent death to be caused by Tequila and tacos.  “My stomach contains the Mexican Revolution,” he told me. “I’m dying.”  “I’ve got just the thing,” I said. “It’s small and pink, take it.”

I dreamed then of being a doctor.

I pictured myself saving lives.

I pictured patient after patient, lying on sweat-soaked gurneys, with the most awful stomach cramps in the history of disease, with convulsions, and a priest by their side. In the nick of time I would show up in a whirl of medical glory and spoon feed the miracle drug I had just invented in my laboratory. And they would be cured! And I would be the super-hero doctor forever!

After letting Mike take my bottle of milky pink elixir, he just left. Not even a “Gracias.”

I thought he was dying.

When I ask him I’m sure he won’t remember Pancho Villa shooting up his stomach.

And I’m positive he won’t care if I explain my disappointment at my failure to become a Hippocratic hero.

For today, though, I will leave my thoughts of Pepto-Bismol behind.

And resolve not to discuss it with Mike for another two weeks. 345 hours. 20,700 minutes.

The bottle is probably just sitting on his kitchen counter, just one of the 43 things sitting there.

Another forgotten number.