Wednesday, November 24, 2010


By Carl 

Every so often, I start down this odd path of thinking about stuff that's piled up in my mind. Today is one of those.

First, to the people who have made my blog, Simply Left Behind, as moderately successful as it is, thank you. It's been over six years since I first put fingers to keyboard in anger. I have Katrina to blame.

Not the hurricane, the writer.

Thanks, Kat. A bigger drain of energy I've never experienced.

To my friends at The Reaction, thank you for welcoming my words on an almost daily basis. Whether I agree with my co-bloggers and readers or not, I've enjoyed the chance to develop my thinking and to be challenged on my positions. I may not always come away with a changed mind... OK, I'm almost always right, so hardly ever... it is in these discussions that I learn the flaws in my arguments.

It's Thanksgiving in America, so it feels right to acknowledge how important this part of my life has become. I vowed in January of this year to work harder at being right on a story and to work less hard on being someone who grabs eyeballs. I felt like I was selling out in 2008 and 2009. This year, not so much.

To you all, I wish a happy and healthy and safe Thanksgiving, and to my international readers, well, have a good Thursday tomorrow.

The beauty of the Internet is that I can speak with people from Colorado to Colombia to Canton. The fact that always amazes me is how much people outside the US know and even understand about America, and how little we know of them. OK, there's a law of large numbers involved: if you live in Spain and focus on America, that's different than living in Spain and trying to understand America AND Sweden AND Dubai AND Malaysia, all at the same time.

Still, I'm really impressed by people who post things like "Well, I live in Clapham, and..."

Doubly so as a New Yorker. I've lived here all my life, and am a child of the streets (as anyone who's followed my Flickr account can tell you), and just when I think I know it all, I'm surprised by what I find. I envy tourists one thing: the first impression. I walk the streets near my office and am jealous of the folks who pull out a camera and snap a photo of Grand Central Terminal or the Chrysler Building. For them, that's a lifetime story to tell people.

For me, it's another building that I have to walk around to get from A to B.

Every so often, I get that same thrill, though. I rode my bike in Red Hook this summer and found these little vest pocket parks with these adorable little names, and marveled. And then I started to notice that parks all over the city started these cutesy names.

It got a little annoying, in fact. Maybe it's because I've become so feminized.

I realized that this morning when I was catching up on Time magazine, and found this article on the "Sheconomy". Women, you see, make or are involved in 85% of the purchases around the house, including some surprising things, like home theatre systems. Companies are only starting to notice this in a way that is meaningful. Marketing designed for women has finally gotten past "paint it pink and slap a flower on it," to understanding better how women buy something.

In the course of the article, the Midas corporation example was brought up. It turns out, Midas markets to women not by selling them a service, but by making them a customer, getting them to buy into a process by explaining things to them.

You know, you need a new alternator. Rather than gruffily say that, the technician will sit down with the customer, pull out a diagram and explain what the alternator does, how it charges the battery as the car moves, and explain precisely what broke down.

As they tell their technicians, "Explain it to your customers like you have to explain it to your mother."

And so here I am, thinking, "Wow, that's how I would have done it!"

And that's when I realized just how feminized I had become. See, men -- or rather as I term them in my next book, "guys"-- walk into a repair shop and presume that they have to have the appearance of knowing everything there is to know about cars. so the mechanic sizes them up, looks at the car, and pronounces his judgement that the car needs an new alternator.

The guy nods in agreement, grunts, and pulls out his wallet.

There was a time when this might have been the case, back before fuel injection and computers. Hell, I used to do all sorts of repairs to my engine as a kid. Now, I open the hood and go all Tim Allen, grunting and bug-eyed like one of the monkeys in front of the monolith in 2001.

And I've done that, to be sure. For whatever male vanity reason, letting a mechanic know I have no clue what he's talking about seems comforting.

Maybe to him, but why is it comforting me? 

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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