Which edit? The edit.

My email signature, various online bios, all describe me as a writer and editor. And OK, yes, I get what this phrase — “the edit” — means, but it still gives me a bit of a facial tic:

It’s the definite article with “edit” that bugs me. One minute you’re just a badly paid pen for hire, getting an email or text reading, “Please address my edits,” or “I’ve done my edit,” and the next, cookies are getting edited.

Edit, in these usages, means, “a pre-selected group of something, made by people who know more than you about whatever’s being selected.” The Saks edit:

A whole store, called just…you know:

Note the copy block. The Edit is a store with not just an owner, but a curator. You see that word a lot in Edits, although as someone who’s edited, or been edited, my whole career, I’ve never had a curator, too. (Just an editor!) Maybe I’ll try that on my next note to whoever I’m tasked with editing next: “I am done curating your copy. See the edit, attached.”

It’s just one of those language things. One day you wake up, and no one says, “I gave you a present.” They say, “I’ve gifted you with this sweater.” Sometimes past tense just needs a kick in the ass. Or it’s “the U.S. team” one day, and “Team USA” the next. “Get well soon, Adam” yields to “AdamStrong,” justlikethat.

I blame hashtags.

You can tell what kind of day Tuesday was. Sitting around, waiting for phone calls, wishing I were already retired and could bore people with these sorts of observations full-time.

So I leave you with a little bloggage. Matt Gaetz tried for a blanket pardon:

Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, was one of President Donald J. Trump’s most vocal allies during his term, publicly pledging loyalty and even signing a letter nominating the president for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the final weeks of Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Gaetz sought something in return. He privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed, according to two people told of the discussions.

Ha ha ha. That guy.

OK, hopes for a better Wednesday, here. I hope it is The Edit of good days.

Posted at 7:49 am in Popculch | 69 Comments
 

Good news.

After a few days, weeks or months like we’ve had, would you be interested in reading an entirely pleasant story that may even make you smile?

Then have at it: How Nancy Faust and her organ set the tone for America’s pastime, a feature about Comiskey Park’s former organist.

We need more good stories about Nancys, in my opinion.

Long days, a night out. I’ll try to be back end of the week, but for now, Nancy Faust and a fresh thread.

Posted at 10:07 pm in Popculch | 100 Comments
 

Mr. Wrong.

I was born in the late ‘50s, at which point the Depression was still fresh enough in the popular imagination that many of its tropes were fairly widespread. (I should say here that this post is not about the stock market or economic collapse. It’s about pop music.) Among them was the hobo — the man who rambled from town to town, riding the rails, carrying his belongings in a bandanna on a stick. While they were seen as down on their luck, often drunk, just as often they were portrayed as free spirits that society never got its claws into. Every big city had SRO flophouses. No one ever talked about untreated mental illness or the need for more housing or support services. All of which is the long way around to notice that every so often a song will pop up in an oldies mix to remind me of how hard this archetype was sold, especially with regards to women.

I was driving home the other day when Spotify burped up “Gentle on My Mind,” Glen Campbell’s show-closing signature song. It’s a song about a woman who is fondly remembered by one of these footloose souls, and it had been a while since I listened to the lyrics:

It’s knowin’ that your door is always open and your path is free to walk
That makes me want to leave my sleeping bag rolled up and stashed behind your couch…

You’ve heard it. And just in case you think it’s about a long-haul trucker or something, the final verse makes reference to dipping a cup of soup from a gurglin’ cracklin’ cauldron in some train yard, which sounds pretty hobo-trope to me.

Brook Benton’s “Rainy Night in Georgia” introduced us to another romantic bum:

Find me a place in a boxcar
So I take my guitar to pass some time
Late at night, it’s hard to rest
I hold your picture to my chest, and I feel fine

But that’s not all. A decade later came the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man.” When it’s time for leavin’, he hopes you’ll understand that he was born a ramblin’ man.

Carol Leifer used to do a funny routine about Petula Clark’s “Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” something about girl, you need to find a better class of boyfriend. This was in the ‘80s, which shows that finally, finally women were starting to respond to this preposterous romantic archetype.

At least Brandy, that fine girl (what a good wife she would be) had the sense to love a seaman. At least the Merchant Marine is a job.

Times change. Women wake up and smell the coffee in their own kitchens, not the pot bubbling on the fire down in the train yard. They ask themselves, why is my door always open and my path free to walk to this goddamn bum? It reminds me of Rob’s opening monologue in “High Fidelity:”

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

Not long after I discovered Glen Campbell on Spotify, I sent Kate a link to “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife,” a song released when I was 10. Even at 10 I knew it was bullshit.

Sometimes I think too much.

I’m writing this at 6 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. Conventional wisdom says Joe has Michigan in the bag, but conventional wisdom about Michigan is often wrong. We shall see who Mr. Right really is.

In the meantime, enjoy midweek.

Posted at 6:09 pm in Popculch | 88 Comments
 

Video on demand.

I went to a meeting on Tuesday. One of the women there had just had a birthday, and a friend had gifted her with “a Cameo by that guy from the Fyre Festival documentary,” Andy someone. We all watched this thing, a roughly 30-second video in which Fyre Festival Guy called her by her name, specifically mentioned the big milestone (40) and her two kids, then threw in a Fyre Festival joke to wrap it all up.

“What is this…Cameo?” I asked, and got the usual answer: It’s an app.

Boy, is it. It’s an app (and a website) with dozens of photographs on it, along with prices, of individuals ranging from basically unknown to mid-level-oh-that-guy celebrities. For the price quoted, you can hire them to record a brief personalized video. A birthday greeting, congratulations, whatever. I haven’t dived all the way into the site; I assume all this has to be a mutual agreement thing. You can’t put any old words into…Charlie Sheen’s mouth. But that you can get Charlie Sheen at all is kinda amazing, when you think about it.

I got lost, scrolling through the possibilities. Stormy Daniels, $250. Gilbert Gottfried, $150. Tom Arnold, $100. OMG Tomi Lahren, $70!!! (Like anyone would pay that. Even Heidi Montag and Andy Dick fetch more than that.) It’s hilarious, proof that even the nominally famous are not immune from money-grubbing for a few $20s. Sooner or later, this shit will bring on the revolution, and I welcome it. Before it does, though, I’d love to get Stormy to record a birthday greeting for my boss. I’ll even write the script.

So, today. The hearings. I had a lot to do, which meant I could only pay attention here and there. I tried to keep it on in the background, but once Nunes started talking, I simply couldn’t keep my wits about me. I swear, the last three years have taken 10 off my own life. This can’t be good for me. So I muted it and checked in via Twitter from time to time.

My takeaway is that this is going to be bad for the Republicans, but only in the long run, and not as bad as it should be. Anyone stupid enough to put their faith in this moron are unlikely to be moved.

By the way, the snow that fell the other day? It overperformed. We were supposed to get five inches, but it ended up being closer to eight. Because the autumn leaf pickup was only about half over, much of the equipment that would normally clear it away was still fitted with leaf-collecting stuff, not snowplows, and some streets remain kinda rutted because they were only salted, not plowed. Then there was this phenomenon:

Leaves falling on top of snow. It’s unlikely to melt for at least another week, too.

One more link? Sure: A serious book-critic’s review of the Anonymous book:

More often in “A Warning,” actions are not taken; they are almost taken. In a particularly dire circumstance, several top officials consider resigning together, a “midnight self-massacre” that would draw attention to Trump’s mismanagement. “The move was deemed too risky because it would shake public confidence,” Anonymous explains. At any moment, the author writes, there are at least a handful of top aides “on the brink” of quitting. (The brink is a popular hangout for Trump officials.) Anonymous also wonders if Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protests in 2017, when the president drew a moral equivalence between white nationalists and those opposing them, would have been the time for such a gesture. “Maybe that was a lost moment, when a rush to the exits would have meant something.”

It’s like “Profiles in Thinking About Courage.”

Good one. OK, must run. Time to pull in the latchstring and think about Thursday.

Posted at 5:04 am in Current events, Popculch | 61 Comments
 

Are you ready for a brand-new beat?

Making my way slowly through the 1619 project, discussed earlier. So far my favorite piece is Wesley Morris’, in the magazine, about music, and what black folks brought to the table, and continue to bring to the table, of American musical expression.

I’ve always disliked the term “cultural appropriation.” I get it, I totally do, but I’ve never been comfortable with trying to define how listening to lots of things, taking it all into your soul, processing it in your soul-blender and then pouring out your own smoothie crosses a line between “influenced by” and “stealing from.” I think a lot of people can’t do it, either, which is how we get the stupidest extremes of the charge — the Oberlin students whining that serving banh mi sandwiches in the cafeteria, made with the wrong kind of bread, somehow devalues the unique cuisine of Vietnam, to name but one. I try to ignore these stories, because they’re dumb. The banh mi itself is a unique fusion of native and colonial Vietnam, after all (the baguette), and sooner or later someone is going to fill one with macaroni and cheese, at which point, game over. It’s food, folks. It all goes in the same stomach, as my dad used to say.

Music is more difficult. If you know anything about pop culture, you know about Alan Lomax and his field recordings, which preserved the unique live sounds of black southern music for the ages, but also how that tipped over into the theft of same. You know about the routine contract rip-offs of black musicians; there was a reason the mob was involved in radio and music publishing, after all. You may have seen the “60 Minutes” feature on Little Richard, which featured Pat Boone singing “Tutti Frutti,” a recording that paid Richard Penniman the princely royalty of zero dollars and zero cents. The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin both got their start covering African-American music. The Stones grew into something else entirely, and you can argue that Led Zeppelin was absolutely sui generis from the get-go, but it was a necessary step in the evolution of both bands. And it was great music.

My point is, trying to separate black music from white music is like trying to separate black and white people. We cross-pollinate. It’s what people do.

Morris’ essay is wide-ranging, and doesn’t really address “appropriation,” that term that sounds like it came out of the Cultural Revolution. Nor does he address copyright, or Alan Lomax. Rather, he dives into the stew and comes out with something that’s just delicious to read. Here’s the top, a slightly longer cut-and-paste than I generally do:

I’ve got a friend who’s an incurable Pandora guy, and one Saturday while we were making dinner, he found a station called Yacht Rock. “A tongue-in-cheek name for the breezy sounds of late ’70s/early ’80s soft rock” is Pandora’s definition, accompanied by an exhortation to “put on your Dockers, pull up a deck chair and relax.” With a single exception, the passengers aboard the yacht were all dudes. With two exceptions, they were all white. But as the hours passed and dozens of songs accrued, the sound gravitated toward a familiar quality that I couldn’t give language to but could practically taste: an earnest Christian yearning that would reach, for a moment, into Baptist rawness, into a known warmth. I had to laugh — not because as a category Yacht Rock is absurd, but because what I tasted in that absurdity was black.

I started putting each track under investigation. Which artists would saunter up to the racial border? And which could do their sauntering without violating it? I could hear degrees of blackness in the choir-loft certitude of Doobie Brothers-era Michael McDonald on “What a Fool Believes”; in the rubber-band soul of Steely Dan’s “Do It Again”; in the malt-liquor misery of Ace’s “How Long” and the toy-boat wistfulness of Little River Band’s “Reminiscing.”

Then Kenny Loggins’s “This Is It” arrived and took things far beyond the line. “This Is It” was a hit in 1979 and has the requisite smoothness to keep the yacht rocking. But Loggins delivers the lyrics in a desperate stage whisper, like someone determined to make the kind of love that doesn’t wake the baby. What bowls you over is the intensity of his yearning — teary in the verses, snarling during the chorus. He sounds as if he’s baring it all yet begging to wring himself out even more.

Playing black-music detective that day, I laughed out of bafflement and embarrassment and exhilaration. It’s the conflation of pride and chagrin I’ve always felt anytime a white person inhabits blackness with gusto. It’s: You have to hand it to her. It’s: Go, white boy. Go, white boy. Go. But it’s also: Here we go again. The problem is rich. If blackness can draw all of this ornate literariness out of Steely Dan and all this psychotic origami out of Eminem; if it can make Teena Marie sing everything — “Square Biz,” “Revolution,” “Portuguese Love,” “Lovergirl” — like she knows her way around a pack of Newports; if it can turn the chorus of Carly Simon’s “You Belong to Me” into a gospel hymn; if it can animate the swagger in the sardonic vulnerabilities of Amy Winehouse; if it can surface as unexpectedly as it does in the angelic angst of a singer as seemingly green as Ben Platt; if it’s the reason Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait” remains the whitest jam at the blackest parties, then it’s proof of how deeply it matters to the music of being alive in America, alive to America.

If you can’t tell by now, I recommend it. It’s one reason this project has been such an eye-opening pleasure to read.

I wish I could say anything else was a pleasure today, but it wasn’t. Terrible, terrible insomnia last night, which always leaves me depressed and miserable the next day. At least I was able to play the work-from-home card. I expect — I hope — to get a better night’s sleep tonight, and that tomorrow will be better. Keep a good thought.

Posted at 5:30 pm in Popculch | 75 Comments
 

The weekend, the whirl.

We start the week on a rocket blast of coffee and eggs and barely slow down. Wednesday is Hump Day, halfway to the weekend, then it’s Thursday, the official start of the weekend. (This is true; I saw some market research once that said people start thinking of the weekend at noon on Thursday, and once your mind is there, your body’s only a half step behind. Then it’s the official weekend, and it’s woo, party! Dinner guests! Activities! Errands! Laundry! And all of a sudden it’s Sunday night and you’re thinking, what happened here?

Americans work too hard, this is indisputably true.

it was a busy weekend. Eastern Market, dry cleaner, blah blah, ending at the Cannabis Cup, in town for the weekend. This is an event I was utterly unprepared for, a trade show all about marijuana, newly legalized in Michigan. I went there expecting a …trade show, but it was far more. Line around the block to get in, in withering sun and heat. It probably took half an hour just to get through the lines, and once inside? Quite nuts. Packed to the rafters, hot as hell, stinky as hell, row after row of weed vendors, selling pretty much everything weed-related.

If you live in a non-legal state, the first glimpse of Big Marijuana may be surprising. It has product specialists:

And of course it has characters:

And a certain literally homegrown charm:

But this was a big crowd, in a very Detroit space — the Russell Industrial Center courtyard:

It’s Weedstock. I’m sure someone has called it that before. I mean, the Wu-Tang Clan played.

Then, today, Sunday, was Swim to the Moon, the open-water swim I’ve been worried about for weeks. I had reason to worry; it was no easier than two years ago, when I finished it thinking I was going to die. I stayed on course better this year, maybe shaved a minute or two off my last time. But there’s simply no way to swim that far and make it easy, not at my age. But I finished, and didn’t drown, so we’ll maybe see about next year.

I’m trying to catch up with whatever I missed in the papers this weekend, but for now, I’m working my way through the 1619 Project, the NYT future Pulitzer winner about the effects of slavery in America. It’s much better than I expected, which is why so many Republicans seem to be so butthurt over it. So far, though, it’s very good.

And with that, I’m out. So, so tired.

Posted at 9:08 pm in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 50 Comments
 

Heat, begone.

If you live on the east coast, the heat won’t last much longer. I know, because it came to you from Michigan, and it is being chased out to sea by a cold front that swept through Saturday night. Lotsa wind, lotsa wind-related headaches, mainly power outages. We kept ours, but lost our internet — twice.

You’ll cool off soon enough. Hope you don’t lose your internet in the bargain

So with that in mind, and because I worked most of today, and “Big Little Lies” is coming on in 14 minutes, so just two bits of the bloggage today:

First, the full, 16-minute-plus projection of “Apollo 50” on the Washington Monument and a few other screens in D.C. the other night. There’s an every-other-year light-installation festival in Detroit called D-lectricity that is starting to get some works like this, but nothing this impressive. Absolutely worth your time.

And a Spin magazine look at the 40-year anniversary of “Aja,” my once and forever favorite Steely Dan record. Yes, pretentious, yes, full of itself, yes, you get the feeling the album cover was black so you could better see the inevitable lines of cocaine laid thereon, but I still love it.

With that, I must go and embrace the week ahead. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 8:59 pm in Popculch | 105 Comments
 

Lie, memory.

I heard a teaser clip the other day about why young people want to see the U.S. send a man to Mars.

“Everybody who was alive then knows exactly where they were when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface,” an under-35-sounding man said. “Our generation doesn’t have that, and I want us to.”

As people his age say: LOLOL.

On one of the other anniversaries of the Apollo 11, I read a story about how people remembered it.

“I remember it so vividly,” ran a typical account. “My kindergarten teacher had a TV on a cart, and brought it into the room. She drew the blinds and we all gathered around to watch.”

Or: “My daddy and I were making hay on the farm, but mama said we should take the afternoon off and watch, because it was history, and so we did.”

There were several more like that. Proving that our memories can lie like a young wife with a side piece, oh yes they do. Obviously no one was watching in school, unless they went to a school where classes were held in the middle of the summer, close to midnight. And very unlikely anyone was making hay, either, although that person might be thinking of the moon landing, which I believe was on a Sunday afternoon. It is seared in my memory because I was at a friend’s house, and her dad teared up. I wasn’t accustomed to seeing men cry, which is probably why I remember it better than the fuzzy images on the black-and-white TV.

I, too, can tell you where I was: Struggling to stay awake in my bedroom, while my mom watched from the other twin bed. The upstairs TV, which we rolled around on a cart, was in my room.

“Don’t you want to watch this?” she’d ask occasionally, and I’d struggle to focus, but I missed the one-small-step stuff. I was only 11, and even then, not much of a night owl.

But contrary to popular belief, memories can lie, and do. We’re suggestible, and stuff gets corrupted on our hard drives, just like it does with the one I’m writing this on. How many times have we heard stories about kids watching news of the Kennedy assassination on TVs in schools? Add a few more years, and suddenly they’re all mixed up.

A little short today, I know, but I had another insomnia bout last night and I’m beat.

For bloggage, try on this Robin Givhan essay about the late JFK Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette. Interesting take:

Fame looked so different at the end of the past century than it does now. Princess Diana died in 1997. We paused and did a bit of cultural soul-searching. The price of fame was too much; the paparazzi had gotten out of control; it was a dangerous thing for a celebrity to fly too close to the sun.

We weren’t quite done with the introspection and the feeling of culpability when John and Carolyn died two years later in a plane crash. And when they did, it was as though we just threw in the towel and began to indulge in our worst impulses. We demanded to know everything about celebrities — what they wore, what they ate, when they gave birth, who they voted for, how they grieved. And the famous began to make the best of an untenable situation by transforming most every aspect of their lives, including their hobbies and parenthood, into a side business.

In hindsight, it’s as though Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy were holding back the impeding tide of celebrity excess: the costly haute couture, the personal branding, the competitive public confessionals, the grotesqueness of it all.

Back later this week, eh?

Posted at 9:03 pm in Popculch | 45 Comments
 

Costumes.

We’re a pretty casual family, and I bet yours is, too. I like to dress up as much as the next girl, but honestly, I don’t get much call to, anymore. Who does? American life, even office life, has been trending away from neckties and pantyhose for a while. I have what my fellowship director used to call “power clothes,” but I don’t wear them very often.

When Kate was younger, I learned that in Grosse Pointe, there is one holiday event that is beloved by all, and it is not the Santa Claus parade on the day after Thanksgiving, but the various elementary school holiday choir concerts. All the kids sings in their grade-level choir, and it is an utterly charming event. (The kindergarteners came out on stage one year, and the dad next to me slapped his hands together and said, “AWRIGHT. Now we’re getting to the good stuff!”) When Kate went to her first one, I think she wore school clothes, i.e., jeans and a sweater, and she might as well have been a hobo. Nearly all the girls were wearing Christmas dresses, something we just didn’t have.

We’re not churchgoers, we don’t take studio family photos at the holidays, and without something to dress up for, why own dress-up clothes?

Which is the long way around to today’s subject, which is: Why do conservatives dress their kids so weird?

By now, those of you who are Extremely Online have probably seen the amazingly weird photo of the Acosta family on dad’s first day on the job as Secretary of Labor:

Holy shit, now there’s an image to haunt your dreams, eh?

Never have two little girls who live in Florida look so untouched by the sun, and not because their mother is always reapplying SPF 5000. The colorless lips, the hollow eyes – and that’s not even getting to the strange haircuts and identical dresses on sisters that look to be about two years apart, maybe less.

Now let’s consider the outfits worn by Jack and Josie Roberts, son and daughter of Chief Justice John Roberts, when he was introduced to the public in 2005. I can’t find a public-domain pic of the two – one could Google – so let’s call upon the descriptive prose of Robin Givhan:

There was tow-headed Jack — having freed himself from the controlling grip of his mother — enjoying a moment in the spotlight dressed in a seersucker suit with short pants and saddle shoes. His sister, Josie, was half-hidden behind her mother’s skirt. Her blond pageboy glistened. And she was wearing a yellow dress with a crisp white collar, lace-trimmed anklets and black patent-leather Mary Janes.

(Another girl with a pageboy? Josie and the Acosta girls must go to the same stylist.)

Finally, Barron Trump:

He just turned 13, so I suspect in this pic he was about…11? He’s accompanying his parents to a New Years party at Mar-a-Lago, wearing full black tie and looking, as he often does, like he lives deep inside his head. I believe, two years into his father’s presidency, I’ve seen two photos of him not in a jacket and tie. Because his father’s idea of outdoor recreation is golf, there are no pix of the two of them cavorting on the White House lawn, or dressed for skiing or the beach or any other place you’d expect a wealthy family to cavort.

I keep thinking about that NYE party at Mar-a-Lago. Can you imagine a more miserable place to be, at 11? Most kids would be having a sleepover, maybe a movie marathon in the rec room with popcorn and pizza and a sitter making surge-price money, not wearing a bow tie in a room with a bunch of adults, the youngest of which is probably 5x his age, all saying, “What a handsome boy! Do you like living in the White House?” Shudder.

Of course I loved the Obamas, and Michelle drew most of the style spotlight, but when we saw the girls, they seemed to be pretty standard American kids. At the turkey pardoning, they wore scarves and sweaters and down vests. On vacations, they dressed for the setting and the weather. And yes, for formal portraits, they wore dresses, but they looked like individuals, not like the twins in “The Shining.” And their clothing was contemporary, modern, not something out of an early-series episode of “Mad Men.”

Of course children have opinions about what they’re asked or told to wear, but when they’re young, the turnout is all about mom and dad, and mostly mom. Lace-trimmed anklets, matching dresses, identical haircuts, seersucker short-pants suits, saddle shoes — these are relics of a different time.

Givhan, again:

In a time when most children are dressed in Gap Kids and retailers of similar price-point and modernity, the parents put young master Jack in an ensemble that calls to mind John F. “John-John” Kennedy Jr.

Separate the child from the clothes, which do not acknowledge trends, popular culture or the passing of time. They are not classic; they are old-fashioned. These clothes are Old World, old money and a cut above the light-up/shoe-buying hoi polloi.

…Dressing appropriately is a somewhat selfless act. It’s not about catering to personal comfort. One can’t give in fully to private aesthetic preferences. Instead, one asks what would make other people feel respected? What would mark the occasion as noteworthy? What signifies that the moment is bigger than the individual?

But the Roberts family went too far. In announcing John Roberts as his Supreme Court nominee, the president inextricably linked the individual — and his family — to the sweep of tradition. In their attire, there was nothing too informal; there was nothing immodest. There was only the feeling that, in the desire to be appropriate and respectful of history, the children had been costumed in it.

The Roberts kids are probably in college by now. I wonder what they wear now.

A good weekend to all. Man I feel like I’ve earned it.

Posted at 8:13 pm in Popculch | 62 Comments
 

Hustle harder!!!!

Mercy, what a last few days. Just one thing after another. The small dinner party was a success, and I’m about to grill myself a hot dog, because why the hell not.

I think I had some ideas about blogs, but at the moment they have fled my brain. I should write these down. My to-do list routine is holding out, long past when I generally abandon them. But there’s something, what’s the word, centering about sitting down Sunday night or first thing Monday, turning to a fresh page in the diary, and making the list: Job 1, Job 2, personal. Maybe one of these days I’ll learn: Write it all down.

In the meantime, a question for you Californians: Where is the mine in California from which these guys are dug? Lay-deez and gennlemen, the CEO of WeWork:

Neumann is the kind of chief executive who sees pies in every sky, so it’s not surprising that even after a $14 billion step back, he calls the relationship with SoftBank “very, very, very, very positive.” While he’s known as a fierce and unpredictable negotiator whose bargaining tactics include tequila shots, he’s also always ready with a pep talk about finding your purpose, doing what you love, and making people feel less alone. Neon slogans on WeWork office walls implore you to “Hustle Harder” and “Get S#!t Done.” (More of the slogans, found in photos on the company’s website, are cycling below.) Neumann told a reporter in 2017 that WeWork’s 11-figure valuation had less to do with its revenue than its “energy and spirituality.” In a recent promotional video, he intoned, “The single most powerful word is the word ‘we.’”

…“Everyone wants to know what ARK is. I think it’s going to be amazing,” Neumann says one morning last month at WeWork’s headquarters in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Throughout our conversation, he’s at ease making grand statements, as if the dreary details will fall in line later as long as the vision is bold enough. He’s also hungry. It’s just past 11:30 a.m. when a male assistant in a black baseball cap delivers a shallow gray ceramic bowl with brown grains and a spoon. “I haven’t broken my fast yet,” the 40-year-old CEO says apologetically, instead of using the word “breakfast.” He’s clearly a big fan of the oats, sourced from Dan Barber, an “amazingly interesting” farm-to-table chef developing grains with “amazing qualities.” (These are high in fat.) Neumann invested in Barber’s seed company, Row 7, last year.

My editor and I looked at one of the Detroit WeWork spaces when we were expanding last year. It was as advertised above — very slogan-y, very go-team-y, and there’s free beer. It was also pretty expensive for what we wanted. The space was tight, and the walls were glass. There was a therapist in one of them; when I expressed amazement, the guide said, “she has curtains.”

So I’m not surprised to hear that the CEO appears to think that dreary details will fall into line later as long as the vision is bold enough.

We stayed in our cruddy suite of offices, and it’s fine.

I hope this week is easier than the last. I expect it will.

Posted at 9:12 pm in Popculch | 38 Comments