Schadenfreude Rocks

My old boss got voted off the island and I am so happy I could burst.

There, I said it, and I’m glad.  The official company announcement was curt.  When you read “we wish her well in her future endeavors,” there’s no doubt.  This was a corporate execution, a Michael-kissing-Fredo moment.

The ice-plunge reality of today’s Darwinian economy is this: there is a conveyor belt of employees jouncing along from the beginning to the end of their careers like the chocolates in the old I Love Lucy episode.  At the end of the conveyor belt is a steep drop into the trash basket.

By the time you’ve reached your 50s, if you’ve made it that far in the world of the working, you’re in a precarious position.  You’re closer to the top of the pyramid and the jobs at your level are fewer and farther between.  And you’re — hopefully — making good money and, thus, an easy target for those managers who practice “addition by subtraction.”

Real New Yorkers see this up-close and personal every day.  We — OK, I — innoculate ourselves/myself against the pain by rejoicing in the downfall of others.    When the news of _______________’s demise was reported in Ad Age, I felt as good as if I’d have sunk the winning basket in the NBA finals at the buzzer.

My first boss there at the agency, ____________, built the agency virtually on his shoulders.  He was tough, abrasive — no social graces but super smart.  We alI loathed him, yet learned so much from him.  He was the tough drill sargeant who prepared us for the battles ahead.

His boldness, coarseness and lack of guile proved his downfall.  His successes rankled those more politically adept but intellectually deficient.  He was an outlier and, the powers- that-be thought, he had to go.

Although he rose to great heights and made the agency king of the hill, he was eaten alive and spit out by _____________, a cunning, smart go-getter who worked her way up from a smallish medical agency to the point where she outmaneuvered _________ , aided and abetted by the honchos at the agency’s holding company.  Back then, the economy was rocking and she was able to hold onto the gains made by her predecessor, but failed to build upon them.  She proved methodical, careful.  She played not-to-lose.  And she paid with her professional life.

Eight years after she knocked off __________, she, too, was voted off the island, outfoxed by one of her lieutenants.  __________ was 15 years her junior, prettier, flirtier — but not necessarily smarter — and a suit as empty as any guy, proving that, at least in PR, women had finally achieved parity with men.

She was always oh-so-polite.  She never spoke ill of anyone.  Totally politik.  But it was always the _________ show, first and foremost, and she jettisoned me and virtually everyone who ever had an opinion, voiced it, or proved to be anything more than a hand puppet.  She was big on garnering big profile interviews for herself, speaking engagements, burnishing her “mythology of me.”

And, surprise!  Over time, the agency lost its mojo, its creativity, its ability to win and keep the big accounts.  Was the economy tough?  Sure.  But did her team’s deficiencies do the agency in?  You bet.

So goodbye and farewell, Ms. ____________.   

Another dead fish in the shark tank, another chocolate that’s fallen off the Lucy line.  Say what you will about my ethics, but schadenfreude rocks.  Live by the sword, die by the sword, baby.

Gary Carter, God and the Holocaust

Gary Carter is dying.  He is 57.  Carter, number 8 in the photo, was the catcher for the New York Mets in ’86, a great year for New York sports fans.  In the center of the maelstrom of fast-living, hard-partying young Mets, with Conie and Strawberry and Doc and Nails and so many others, Carter was the goodie-goodie, uber-exuberant, giant eight-year old.  His nickname back then was Kid. 

They got Kid from the Expos and Kid delivered, big-time.  The Mets owned New York in those days, as Real New Yorkers know.  But the Mets changed and the team exploded and then the 90s came and they got Saberhagen and Vince Coleman and a bunch of big-salary, low-impact guys, and the Mets, well, they lost me.

But Kid, he was special.  And now, as his family determines whether to discontinue treatment for the cancer that has riddled his brain, Kid — as do many athletes in this time of Tebow — invoked the G word in reference to his circumstance.

Now, Kid was always religious.  And this is a city where there are approximately 33,000 Holocaust survivors, and citizens of virtually every race, color and creed.  In New York, religion — and the collateral damage caused by religion — is a part of daily life.

Carter is who Carter is, and his was not the typical, end-of-game-interview shout-out to an athlete’s “personal savior.”  No doubt Kid’s faith provides comfort in this time of great pain and emotion.  I do believe in forces larger than those in this temporal world of ours, if not in “invisible friends” and bearded Almighties high in the sky.

And I do believe that religion is a powerful force.  It is so powerful, in fact, that is feared and loathed, by some.  Like kids in the schoolyard, taunting “my dad can beat up your dad,” religious followers of every calling have, over the centuries, gone to war over the “my God is better than your God” battle.

Which brings me to Brooklyn.  Central Brooklyn, Borough Park and Midwood in particular, is the Land of the Babka, and home to tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors.  Here, some miscreant recently sprayed painted doors, walls and homes — even the side of a religious school on Avenue L — with swastikas, even writing “Die Jew” on one garage.

To some area residents, with autumn in their hearts and memories long enough to recall their childhood in middle-Europe, this is how it was at the beginning of the Nazi occupation.  Could it happen again, here?  This continues to be a very real question to these Real New Yorkers. 

Beatings.  Blood.  Graffiti’d walls.  This is how it starts, they trembled to news reporters.  Today, they live for the kinder and repress the “thoughts of Auschwitz, the crematorium, the smell,” as one woman said to The New York Times.

In Flatbush, just months ago, cars — painted with swastikas and “KKK” — were burned on Ocean Parkway, another Jewish enclave.

Last year, the NYPD investigated 104 cases of anti-Semitic crimes.  Two per week.

Religion has power.  To heal.  To comfort.  And, also, to incite fear aggression or, just plain aggression.

To those who terrorize others of a different faith, simply because they can, simply because they are bullies or have other psychological issues, I say this:  never again.

To Kid and his family, I wish you love and strength in this time of peril and pain.

For athletes in general, I say this: the world of sport is wonderful entertainment that provides fun and solace and inspiration for millions, young and old, around the world.  As a result, your words as sports icons hold remarkable power.  Choose these words with care and sensitivity and remember the power of restraint.  Your religious faith, if you have chosen that path, should buoy you with a deep, personal meaning that can only be demeaned and trivialized by posturing and banal post-game shout-outs to your “personal savior.” 

Your higher power, no doubt, is in the center of the maelstrom, like Carter on the ’86 Mets. Consider, though, the existance of your higher power in the context of calamities –such as our earthquakes, famines and diseases — not just your winning hit in the big game, watched far above, no doubt with bemusement, in the ultimate skybox. 




Lenox Hill Hospital: Baby On Bored

News Item: Entertainment industry superstar couple pay $1 Million + for the privilege of having their hospital of choice create a personal and private birthing experience.  As a result of poor planning and foresight, other parents are separated from their newborns by over-eager security guards and said parents are given distinctly second-class citizen status while the rich couple tweet about their blessed event, in apparent ignorance of the ill-will they created.  See the link below. 

 Real New Yorkers know and respect Manhattan’s Lenox Hill Hospital, and consider New Jersey’s Beyonce Knowles and Brooklyn’s Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) one of our own.  This episode, however, is positioned at the confluence of several social  hot-buttons.  Consider:

  • 1 percenters flex their muscle: A couple of very rich people fork over big bucks and get the royal treatment — at the expense of mere mortals (without the means of hijacking an entire department for a weekend);
  • Lack of Transparency: Making matters worse, the hospital did not make it clear to other patients (worried parents and their newborns) what was happening;
  • Lack of Consideration: Meanwhile, proud papa Carter tweets proudly about his child (as one might) but without any apparent concern for the situation that was created.

There are many Very Important People in New York City and, from time to time, some of them have to go to the hospital.  Heads of State, Leading Minds, Entertainment Moguls, Pop-Culture Icons: they all live here and, somehow, this type of situation has not been reported, in my recent memory.

Perhaps a “gee, we’re sorry” from the Carters and from Lenox Hill management is in order. 

Perhaps a nice donation to an appropriate, related, charity is in order.

Perhaps hospitals — in this highly competitive healthcare services marketplace — should consider this episode in their future dealings with VIPs who insist on muscling consideration for other patients to the side, so that their will be done.

Yes, money talks.  But when your money comes from selling your music to the very people you disrespected, be careful.  Be very very careful.



Handy-Dandy Money-Saving Ideas for NYC

 Good news for all Real New Yorkers.  The sharp minds at the MTA, in their infinite wisdom and relentless pursuit of efficiency and superior service, have determined that your tax dollars can go farther if they reduce subway service during those times when ridership is less-than-peak.  Like last week, for example, when many people were not working.  Ok, sure the city was overrun by tourists and the platforms were about to burst with bodies.  But still.  What a great idea!

See the link to the story in The New York Times: 

I think the MTA is onto something here.  Reduce service to better match actual user demand.  By extension, we can easily adapt this out-of-the-box strategy to a number of other services.  Saving money and extending the value of tax dollars, that’s what it is all about, right?

Allow me, now, to advance several bold new directions for city planners — in the spirit of innovation and enhanced efficiency that are nothing if not the hallmarks of the Bloomberg administration:

  • Police: with so many New Yorkers headed to their Hamptons and Columbia County summer retreats from May to September on Thursdays and Fridays, why not simply reduce patrols on those days?  Hey, what could go wrong, n’est-ce pas, Muffy?
  • Fire: The less affluent have fewer possessions so why not cut services in the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island?  Run the numbers and see if the rise in lawsuits will outweigh the cost savings.  Hey, that’s what the car companies do, and look how good they’re doing, right?  Leave northern Brooklyn alone.  Those brownstone nabes are darling.
  • Education: Reduce public school hours during the warmer months of spring and fall.  Kids pay less attention when it’s nice out, anyway, so why beat a dead horse? 
  • Sanitation: Cut pick-ups when the temperatures drop to 35 degrees.  The rats are in hibernation and the cold will keep garbage fresh as a daisy and limit the stench. 
  • Roads and highways: increase bike lanes to 50 percent of available road space.  So what if they’re empty even now?  This scheme will further increase congestion and induce implementation of congestion pricing, a money-maker if ever there was one.
  • Libraries: close them all.  Who needs books?  Doesn’t everyone have a smart phone or Kindle by now?
  • Hospitals: Let nurses and PA’s run the whole show — get rid of those pesky, high-priced on-staff physicians.  All they do is order money-wasting, life-saving tests and perform fancy-shmancy operations. Everyone knows nurses really do most of the work.  Next, eliminate the chairs in ER waiting rooms.  This will limit the number of people who use local ER’s as their primary care facility.  If they can’t sit, they won’t come.  Overcrowding problem solved; that was easy.
  • Parks: Charge a nominal admission to all city parks.  Say, $10 for adults and $6.50 for children under 12.  Charge seniors $15 — they use the benches most, so this is only fair. 

This is just a start.  But, as you can see, with a little clever thinking and strategic analysis, city services can be modified to better meet the needs of key constituents and extend the value of precious financial resources. 

Any questions, contact Mayor Michael Bloomberg 1.441.555.1212.  If Diana answers, give her our best.