My Birthday

Reality or the myth, take your pick!

Greetings from my birthday, wherein I hit the trifecta, a pastrami sandwich at Langer’s, a movie (two, actually) and a hot fudge sundae. The tradition was established back in ’77, when it all came together by accident. My girlfriend introduced me to Langer’s. I introduced her to C.C. Brown’s. And we went to see “Annie Hall” on the day it opened. Pretty memorable, and I’ve been trying to touch all the bases ever since.

But not last year, last year I spent getting a root canal.

But this year?

I was worried Langer’s was going to go out of business. We went early, I had to get back to the Westside to see my shrink, and I was shocked to see ropes outside, to handle the crowd. Made me smile, as did my number #19, their legendary sandwich. That’s pastrami, Swiss cheese, cole slaw and Russian dressing piled high between two slices of warm, corn rye bread. I know, I know, sounds like too much. I used to be a purist, I used to go for only the meat and the bread and some mustard. Swiss cheese is not such a stretch, but cole slaw? That’s what puts the concoction over the top. The Russian dressing glues it all together, but it’s the cole slaw that adds zest. I recommend it.

And after my doctor’s appointment we went to the Apple Store, so I could check out the watches.

Talk about confusing.

But what’s even worse is the clerk was clueless. They didn’t know who they were dealing with. I’d done my research, I knew more than she did. And I’d like to tell you I’m down with the help, but when I schlepp all the way out there and my appointment is winding down I get frustrated, I can’t hold back my feelings.

I got a new clerk. Pete. And he made sense of it all to me.

And it’s all pretty senseless. The media focuses on functionality, but Apple is focusing on style. My instincts tell me to buy the cheapest one, knowing it will be superseded in a year, at most, but the Sport only comes with an elastomer band, and the leather one is so much more comfortable. The Milanese strap is cool. But now the price is stratospheric. So, do I buy the middle model, called the “Watch,” so I can get a good band or do I go with the Sport… I’m gonna have to do more research.

And then we drove to Beverly Hills to see “Gett,” the highest-rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes. My mother hipped me to it, she lives to go to the movies. And I’d like to recommend the flick but I cannot do so. It’s a courtroom drama that’s only in the courtroom. About a gett, which is basically a divorce for the non-Jews out there. And some amazing stuff comes out, and it’s stunning that Israelis focus on the intellectual while we Americans applaud comic books, but the truth is if it was on TV, you’d turn it off.

And then to the Landmark.

That’s right, a second movie on the same day. It’s only the second movie I’ve seen in a theatre this year, but I used to do this all the time. Three on a Saturday was not exceptional. Four was done now and again. Back when movies drove the culture and when the lights went down I was transported to a world where feelings were king and I was feeling all right.

The movie we went to see was “While We’re Young.”

I was interested because of its writer/director, Noah Baumbach. “The Squid and the Whale” was fantastic. “Greenberg” missed the mark, but I’m a believer.

And this film turned out to be everything the hype said it was not.

The hype was all about the Adams, Horovitz and Driver.

If you didn’t watch the credits, you’d have never known it was a Beastie Boy.

As for Adam Driver… He’s a star. He’s off-putting on “Girls” at first, but he’s got this weird charisma. And there’s even more of it in evidence here.

So the set-up is Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts are fortysomething and childless. And they become friends with the twentysomething couple of Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. Ben and Naomi become intrigued by the carefree lifestyle of the married young ‘uns.

And that’s a theme of the picture. Aging. Done quite well. It resonated on my birthday.

But not so much as the business lesson.

Ben is a documentary filmmaker. He had some early success, but he’s been stuck on the same flick for ten years now.

Adam Driver is a wannabe.

And Naomi Watts produces the films of her father, legendary documentarian Charles Grodin. It’s creepy to see Grodin so old when he was so young and vibrant in the “Heartbreak Kid.”

But we all age. But will our dreams come true?

You remember dreams.

They used to be a house in the suburbs, two cars and three kids.

That dream is gone, even though some still believe that manual labor and service work will get you close. Good luck with that.

And then there are those of us who are searching for something more.

We’re students of the game. We read the newspapers. Even the self-help books. We think we know what’s going on.

But we don’t.

Because success has got nothing to do with the facts and everything to do with the edges.

That’s right. Are you willing to bend the truth, are you willing to lie, cheat and steal because everybody else does it and that’s what you need to do to make it?

Don’t argue with me. Your band may be incredible, but without a great manager you’ll never succeed. David Krebs made Aerosmith. Not better, but rich and famous.

Truth is for pussies. Facebook is constantly changing the rules, getting in trouble for experiments, doing things you’d never do. Kind of like the government. If you don’t think Edward Snowden is a hero, you think the government is trustworthy. And isn’t it funny that the people saying Snowden is a traitor are the same people saying there’s got to be less government? Head-spinning, I know, but so is life.

That’s what separates the winners from the losers. Those who know how to bend the rules, or employ someone who does. Those who know expedience trumps legality every day of the week. Those who know some get caught breaking the code, but few do, and usually it’s those further down the food chain who are poor and unconnected.

And Ben Stiller realizes all this.

Maybe there are exceptions, Bob Dylan said to live outside the law you’ve got to be honest. But are you really living outside the law, speaking truth to power? And never forget Dylan had Albert Grossman, and without him you’d probably have never heard of the bard from Hibbing, Minnesota.

Stiller can’t believe it when his fantasy is dashed. He’s judging himself for being too selfish, too narcissistic, and this is just what the winners want you to do, to be self-effacing about irrelevant crap while they run rampant all over you. Stiller exposes the truth, but no one cares.

And there’s more than that. The manipulations of Driver. The younger generation’s disrespect for intellectual property rights.

But what “While We’re Young” is really about is…

You’ve got to cheat to win.

There, I said it.

And if you’re arguing with me, you’re a loser.

P.S. After the flick we went to Baskin-Robbins, where the parking spaces were limited to 31 minutes, get it?

P.P.S. When I was broke in 1975, I used my birthday coupons to eat dinner at the Reno Baskin-Robbins. That’s right, my little sister sent me five bucks worth, I was in town to exchange Hart Freestyle skis.

P.P.P.S. Got back home and pulled up “Silicon Valley” on HBO. You’d think it was L.A. in the seventies. All the money and excitement. Only this time it was tech and then it was music. They still make music, but tech rules, because it impacts everybody. The show is so well done… The superfluous spending, the VC rats who glom on to the coders. It’s just like the record business, only there are a lot more zeros and it counts. Also, Mike Judge is poking fun. No one pokes fun in music anymore, they’re too busy drinking the kool-aid.

P.P.P.P.S. After turning off “Silicon Valley”, Jon Stewart was on. He was comparing the Atlanta cheating scandal to Wall Street. He played it out so well… The difference was the teachers had remorse and went to jail. The financial firms paid small fines, admitted no responsibility and one person went to jail. Proving once again, cheaters win.

P.P.P.P.P.S. You’ve got to watch this YouTube video, it’s the funniest thing I’ve seen this week (thanks Larry!) And like the greatest humor, it’s funny because of the core truth…

“Tidal – End The Suffering”

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. What you read in books and papers is the myth. Insiders don’t want you to know the truth, then you might horn in on their game. But you probably won’t, your conscience won’t allow you to. But you don’t get to complain when others win and you don’t. Never forget that.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Everything worth learning happens in life, not school. If you don’t know anybody, you’ll never make it. People don’t get MBAs for the education, but the connection. You go to the Ivys for the better class of people you get to meet. Winners don’t whine and winners have no time. Mentor, schmentor. Identify the winners and try to get closer. Abandon those without the killer instinct, who are not climbing the ladder. Time is ticking. Careers are war, but unlike in the Middle East, they’re time-stamped. Use every “friend,” take no time off unless it’s to recharge your batteries. Or be resigned to middle management.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Family trumps business. Have a couple of kids who call you “Pa” and you’ll probably be happier than the business titans. Who might have children but don’t go to the Little League games. That’s right, you cannot have it all. It’s your choice. The game of life is hard. Hopefully you’ve got someone telling you the truth. My father always did. But he was a lone wolf who believed no one in business was his friend. And he was right, they weren’t.

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