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One of my all-time favorite episodes of the Simpson’s is about St. Patrick’s Day. The whole town of Springfield gets drunk and stupid. More so than usual. Everyone is stumbling, puking and fighting. Even the police. Especially the police. And all of them are wearing that dumbass shade of green. Only when Bart accidentally gets drunk does Springfield’s citizenry show any concern.

When it comes to drinking, St. Patrick’s Day rivals New Year’s Eve for “amateur night.” I’d argue that given my hometown, Chicago’s ‘proud’ Irish heritage March 17th is actually bigger and dumber than Dec 31st. We dye the river green!

For me, the mandatory drinking that the “holiday” requires is annoying. As is the mob scene. By 7 PM, North Clark Street resembles Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. Rush Street is even worse.

Before you take me for a Puritan, you should know for many years alcohol was one of my best friends. We went to high school together. In college, I graduated from beer to vodka. Like playing “Quarters,” beer just seemed silly. Plus it took too long to get drunk. I took drinking far too seriously to be caught dead in some Irish bar on St. Patrick’s Day. Granted, I took drinking far too seriously period but that’s another story.

Anyway, I’m not a fan. That said here’s a clever piece of outdoor advertising from McDonald’s and Leo Burnett. Cheers!

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If you want more than luck with your copy, hit me up. Skilled and sober, 24/7 https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

 

 

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Our foyer, in the gloaming.

This weekend I returned to Chicago to pack up my house in anticipation of my family’s move to San Francisco. As some of you know, I took a new job in the City by the Bay, ECD of gyro. I’ve been in that position for almost half a year. Time flies when you’re having fun. As I’ve written numerous times, the job has indeed been fun. And rewarding. During my relatively short tenure we’ve won a new piece of business and improved the creative product on clients we already have. For me the acid test is long over. I’ve found my calling.

Yet, while I was away, my family remained in Chicago. During that time my girls finished up their school year and embarked upon the many joys of summer vacation. For much of it my wife was subservient to them. No easy task. But she handled it with aplomb.

However, summer is in the final turn and now it’s time to address the many stressful tasks associated with moving. Fortunately, the most important matter –buying and selling real estate- has been taken care of. We are now the proud owners of a lovely home in Mill Valley, California.

Which brings me to our house in Chicago. The new owner takes possession in a few days. The movers come today to help us pack and the trucks pull away from the curb on Thursday.  The weekend was the calm before the storm. Soon chaos reigns.

I spent Saturday boxing up my office and mowing the lawn one last time. Both activities allowed me ample time for reflection. Something, in this case, which brought more sadness than delight. I am not wired for nostalgia. Saying goodbye to my house, not to mention this city, is bittersweet at best.

The ghosts of Christmas Past, all in Snuggies.

Ours is a pretty home. So much so the Chicago Tribune once shot pictures of it for their Sunday magazine. And now it will belong to another. A couple I have never met with a child who will have his pick of my children’s bedrooms. The man, a lawyer I’m told, will sit in the very spot I wrote this and do whatever it is lawyers do when they’re at home. I was tempted to scratch a message into my (his) built-in desk. “Steffan was here.” But then he’d have probably sued me for damages.

Whatever. Best to let go. But letting go, I’ve found, is a hell of a lot easier when I’m in San Francisco. There it’s all about the future. OMG, we will raise California girls! They will have tans all year round. My wife will wear white pants in October. With any luck, my agency will prosper as well. And seldom will I have to look back, remembering Christmases and Easter mornings and listening to the Cicadas trilling away in August. Like I am (was) now.

Goodbye house. See you later, Chicago. You’ve been good to me and mine. And I’ll miss you. But not the shoveling of snow and walking dogs when it’s ten below. That will be another man’s job. And he can have it.

Living the California Dream…

I took Friday off to do some prep work for my move to Mill Valley next month. I had to drive out and check on some work and pay a few contractors. It was a beautiful day and I made it back to the city in time for a mid afternoon run along the Embarcadero. Running along the bay, listening to my favorite music, it dawned on me how much I have taken to this new life. Gorgeous days, a great new job, and always a view: What’s not to like?

However, for much of my adult life I just assumed Chicago was going to be my home. I was born there. My kids were born there. I know that city like the back of my hand. I’d lived in just about every neighborhood in Chicago, as a renter and a homeowner. I worked in its most famous advertising agency, Leo Burnett for over 15 years. My last house, bought in 2005, was going to be the house I died in.

And then all that changed.

View of SF, from Tiburon…

Now San Francisco and Marin County are where the Postaer clan will call home.  I moved out here first, in late February to begin my new gig at gyro (damn the small “g”). And I never looked back. The people, places and things of the 415 are my new everything. I am another in a long line of prospectors who moved west and struck gold.

What’s odd is I thought I’d miss Chicago more. I went to high school at Lane Tech, at the time the largest public high school in America. I grew up in the shadow of Wrigley Field. As a boy, I can recall waiting for players like Billy Williams and Don Kessinger to emerge from the ballpark into the parking lot. There they’d happily sign autographs before clambering into their Oldsmobiles and other decidedly average cars. Chicago was unpretentious, raucous and simple. I loved that town and it was in me, like hot dogs and cheese fries.

Giants 5 Cubs 0

And yet I don’t miss it. Not yet anyway. Not the clattering “L” trains, not the Cubbies, not even the glorious lakefront where I used to catch slews of Yellow Perch and clean and cook them for my family.

Now I’ve got the glimmering bay shining out beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. This is my new LSD (Lake Shore Drive) and I am tripping on it every day.


Jack Postaer, 1913-2012

Advertising runs in our blood. My father was in it for 50 years, the “P” in RPA is his. My brothers are both practitioners in Adland. Jeremy even found a way to make money as a voice-over. Can you say “Bing?” Before retiring, my mother was an art buyer for several Chicago agencies, including FCB, when they still called it that. And then there’s me. I took to this business as if God himself told me to.

Yet maybe we need to go back farther than my father, to this man, Jack Postaer. My grandfather earned a living actually selling stuff, as a green grocer and later a cab driver. As a teenager he sold ice from the back of a truck, this when they still used horses. Air conditioning was called Lake Michigan. And people surfed the radio. Obviously, I don’t remember him as a workingman (he retired when my memory started!) but some years ago I went through a period when I asked him untold questions about his youth, where he lived, how it was…

My grandfather lived much of his life on Chicago’s south side, going to Maxwell Street to buy and barter: eBay from a truck bay. Hard core retail. For men like Jack, the American dream meant selling. During the Great Depression, selling even harder.

Maybe the Postaer gene for it, then, started with him.


Jack Postaer and his long line of salesmen

When my dad got his first “career” job, writing copy for the venerable Sears Roebuck Catalog, Jack was mighty proud. Brokenhearted when he quit, to write jingles on Michigan Avenue. Much, much later when I started my career at the famous Leo Burnett Company, Gramps was over the moon. If, on occasion, The Chicago Tribune’s George Lazarus deemed one of us worthy of his column the phone rang before we got the paper. Jack understood the greatness in selling and loved that we got it, too.

Grandpa Jack died yesterday, peacefully, at the age of 99. I’ll bet the silver dollar he once gave me that when he sees Leo Burnett in Heaven he’ll be sure and show him those clippings.

Finally, many of you are friends of mine on Facebook. On behalf of our family I’d like to thank you for all the kind words. It was deeply appreciated.


Firefly


Blackberry

I was sitting on my front porch this weekend, at twilight, smoking a cheap cigar and listening to the cicadas and crickets rev up for the evening. It’s a strange racket they make, when you sit back and think about it. Whirring, clicking and even beeping, they sound… almost digital. It was as if the sun went down and all our devices crawled outside and… Oh my God, it’s Night of the Living Blackberries!

It hit me how similar insects look and sound to the myriad devices we all harbor: hard, shiny skins, black or translucent or wild in color. The aforementioned noises some of them make. The way they move: click, click, click. Shining intermittently, fireflies (actually beetles) remind me of my Blackberry… Or is it the other way around?

Not many people know this about me but when I was a boy I had a thing for insects. I collected butterflies and moths, raising them from caterpillars to adults. Waking up to a giant Cecropia Moth crawling up my bookshelf is a sight not soon forgotten. I kept a box of crickets on the back porch, much to our cat’s delight. For a time I even had a pet Black Widow spider, much to my mom’s horror. I named her Killer Queen.


Cecropia Moth, surprisingly common in Chicago

The attraction was more than skin deep. I tore into books and movies about the insect kingdom. I must have read my Time Life book of Insects a million times. I learned about metamorphosis and exoskeletons and the differences between species and all their various idiosyncrasies. In college, I parlayed this knowledge into a minor in entomology. Needless to say, I probably know more about insects than any of you.

I know what you’re thinking: what a dork! Perhaps but I met my future wife showing her my collection of butterflies and moths.

And so I watch and listen to these amazing creatures, remembering a time before PC’s and smart phones, being a boy, an odd one at that, chasing fireflies and collecting moths by the porch light. And then my phone starts buzzing, like a June bug. Happy summer, everyone!