“It’s called addiction, imp.”

For several years, I could only roll my eyes at the growing legion of Game Of Thrones devotees. Kind of likened them to wizard nerds and overgrown fan boys. Then, um, I decided to actually watch an episode.

I was a fool. The show, as everyone reading this probably knows, is excellent. So much so that I am not going to spend another moment writing about GOT.

I have a confession. I have also not watched a lick of Breaking Bad, The Sopranos or True Detective. All shows I know I would love. Why? It’s simple. If I do something once and like it I am probably going to do it again, compulsively, and to the detriment of other often healthier things.

For example, since I started in on GOT I spent the last five nights watching as many episodes as I could. Therefore, I did not write a new blog post. Nor did I finish reading my book. I had homework from the office that remained untouched. I stayed up too late, causing me to skip a workout, which, by the way, is something “healthier” I am also addicted to.

You see I am an addict. While binge watching House of Cards might be fine for you “normal” people it is dancing with the devil for me. As it is, I am already hooked on several other shows: Mad Men, Workaholics, Silicon Valley and The Walking Dead. I relish the return of The Strain and I am feverishly anticipating Fear the Walking Dead in July.

Until last week, those were more than enough “content” for this content zombie. And now I’ve got multiple seasons of GOT to devour.

I am a very selfish man. Look at me from the outside and one sees a person who primarily does things that makes him feel good. I want to be there for my family and office. Alas, myriad distractions prevent me from doing so. Too many distractions from life and they become life. And so I must be careful.

In my bones I know breaking away from Breaking Bad would be next to impossible. I might as well be snorting meth.

But even now I grow antsy. Restless. I can’t stop scratching the remote. It’s only 1 AM. What’s another hour?

Where… Are… My… Dragons?


Been thinking about obsession. Not Calvin Klein’s perfume from the late 80’s. Though it is a fitting digression, seeing as Obsession was a quintessential icon of the greed decade, which actually does lead to my thoughts on obsession…

My young daughters love to toss around the word “obsession” to mean something they can’t stop thinking about and/or get enough of. A good example might be a type of candy or a popular song. Maybe it’s a brand of clothing or a food item from this restaurant or that store. And so on.



Now you know why advertisers are so interested in obsession. If only they could get more people to obsess about their products. If only. But obsession is ephemeral, like a vapor. Here today gone tomorrow or, if advertisers are lucky, the day after tomorrow.

As I think about obsession, I realize it lies somewhere between addiction and love: the third point in that Bermuda Triangle. The differences are subtle but profound. Love generally is a “good” thing. Addiction not so much. Obsession can go either way. By my daughters’ definition, obsession is generally harmless.


“OMG. I’m so obsessed with painting my nails.”

But adults obsess. I am or have been obsessed with all manner of things, including in no particular order: leather jackets, bicycles, running, fishing, zombies, old oil paintings, U2, aquarium keeping, silver rings and writing. To you a random list but for me these things are or have been significant totems. One aspect that marks them as obsessions is my inability to stop thinking about them. It is like my head is a rock tumbler and I keep turning over the same thoughts. I have literally stayed up nights wondering if one of my aquarium corals is dead or merely in a dormant stage. Obviously, the Internet is a fiendish companion to obsession. Search “dormant corals.” Search “reviving dormant corals.” You get the idea.

While obsessive behavior resembles addiction it is not. Addiction is the Ace of Spades in that it trumps all obsessions and very often love for that matter. An addict will stop at nothing and stoop to anything to get what he wants. Trust me.

I do not know what it is like to obsess about another human being. Perhaps there was a girl in high school. But those memories are vague. I love my wife and children unconditionally but I am not always thinking about them. When I do worry and wonder about one of my girls I feel intensely vulnerable and so I stop. Rightly or wrongly, I take love for granted. I’m working on it. On the other hand, obsessing over another person is not healthy either. See stalking.


Leather me up…

What I like about obsessions are their ability to fill one up. A hobby (fish keeping), collection (leather jackets) or passion (U2 music) somehow makes life keener and more fun. I’ve been instructed that it might behoove me to set my compass on a more spiritual course. Alas, I may be too cynical for that. Perhaps that’s why I’m obsessed with U2. Like Bono, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. In the meantime, I’ve got my eye on this badass vintage biker jacket on ebay.

Too much of a good thing?

Last Sunday, I read a story in the New York Times Magazine about a woman who had become obsessed with an obscure songwriter and producer from the 1960’s, Curt Boettcher. It’s an interesting story. A classic tale of a talented artist that almost became famous. But for the writer, Alexandra Molotkow it was Boettcher’s obscurity that fueled her obsession with him and in turn with another writer who was also obsessed with Boettcher, Dawn Eden. Eden actually did become famous, first as a rock historian and then as a born again dogmatist.

As fascinating as the story and the people in it are it is the theme of obsession that I’m left with. This short article is shot through with it. Boettcher, Eden and Molotkow were all obsessed with different but related things (music, fame, destiny and even God) propelling them forward into life and in Boettcher’s case, death.

The object of obsession, Curt Boettcher

Teen-agers and myriad other types throw around the term obsession, expressing devotion to a person, place or thing. For example: “I’m obsessed with Pretty Little Liars!” Or “I’m obsessed with Sprinkles cupcakes!” It comes and goes. The word obsession is like the word awesome. Played.

Obsessions like those in the NYT magazine piece are fairly named. They altered the lives of the people obsessed. They became all encompassing, driving forces. Perhaps because I have an addictive personality, I find these stronger affectations deeply interesting. I have become obsessed with malignant things (alcohol) and benign (leather jackets). For better and for worse, these obsessions have indelibly altered my life.


Advertisers take note of obsessions; indeed they can become obsessed by them. After all, a person obsessed with a product or service is one hell of a customer. Whether she is a collector of toys (Beanie Babies) or a fanatic about a professional football team (Cheese Heads), these obsessed people are customers for life, often spending good money after bad living it.

I wonder if that’s bad. Most religions and many spiritual teachers tell us that craving material possessions is wrong. As we all learn soon enough, ‘you can’t take it with you.’ True serenity, it is said, comes only when we “let go” of materialism and “selfish pursuits” and open ourselves up to a “higher calling.”

I won’t argue the point. Yet, as we are not saints, it seems impossible for most, if not all of us, to let go completely. Hobbies, collections, habits are part of the human condition. We can’t help ourselves. Fishermen always buy more tackle than they need. Women own more shoes than they require. I can only wear one leather jacket. I have twelve.

Pathology or Perfecto?

People get “need” and “want” all mixed up. One becomes the other. Obviously, there is a difference between hording and collecting, addiction and passion. But just how big a difference?

As a copywriter, I’ve always wondered what magic combination of words and pictures I might conjure that could trigger obsession. I’m not sure any one thing can. But certainly our contributions can provide fuel. I saw for myself what a handful of “curiously strong” posters did for Altoids. It took more than one TV commercial (“1984”) to create the cult of Apple but few doubt it wasn’t a catalyst.

The rise of the cult of Apple…

This is the power I love and at times loathe about our craft. When done to perfection it is witchcraft. As is written in the header to this blog, We make you want what you don’t need. Word.

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It all started when I thought I’d lost my beloved leather bomber jacket. I’d bought the coat from a vintage store in Hollywood while there on a shoot. (That’s me wearing it behind the camera, checking out the composition of a shot.) I would later find my coat but by then it was too late. My addictive personality had been ignited…

I began scouring Ebay for other, even better examples of old leather jackets. Searching for anternatives to my vintage Vietnam flight jacket opened a closet door inside my head that would require serious filling. Though I quickly found a suitable replacement, I could not let go my desire for more. Like all obsessions or addictions, there is both an upside (something new and exciting) and a downside (the inability to stop). Since I am still enjoying the high with minimal consequences I want to focus on the upside.

There’s something about a leather jacket. It speaks to me. I think of Marlon Brando, who made the biker jacket iconic in The Wild One. Strangely, I don’t recall ever seeing the movie (my bad) but I saw him. And I saw that jacket. I think every man born in the 20th century did. Him and it became truly iconic.


Still, it wasn’t until I explored replacing my brown bomber that the category (especially biker jackets) truly infatuated me. Interestingly, I grew up watching Happy Days on TV and Fonzie’s leather jacket (also iconic) did nothing for me, perhaps because I saw Arthur Fonzerelli as more of a buffoon than a man to be admired.

Again, here nor there, because a more personal experience did me in. Upon receiving my replacement leather I also became turned on. The feel of distressed, busted-up material, its grain and fortitude, it’s suppleness in spots, made me think of the story behind it. Who wore this jacket? What kind of man was he? Like all romantics, I imagined only the best. The owner(s) of this jacket was a true man, a badass with a rogue’s spirit. I imagined the pack of cigarettes in his pocket and motorcycle keys dangling by his side. I saw in him (and it) the man, for better and for worse, I could never be. Damn my self-awareness!

I also discovered that the brown bomber jacket, as cool as it is, has nothing on the black motorcycle jacket. Not to disrespect the brave men and women who fought in our wars but here was perfection. Like the Fender Stratocaster, nothing says original American awesomeness like a black motorcycle jacket.

A man and his Perfecto…

The perfect example was and is the Schott Perfecto. For those unawares, the Schott Brothers were Russian immigrants (like my great grandfather), who started a company in 1913 in Brooklyn, New York. Originally, they sold only raincoats but in 1928, they began producing biker jackets. Motor power was all the rage on American roadways and these feisty immigrants were all over it. Selling for $5.50 the Perfecto made its debut (fittingly) at a Long Island Harley Davidson dealership.

By the 1950’s (in part due to Marlon Brando’s break out role), the “modern” Perfecto was born. Embraced by the likes of James Dean (who seldom was seen without one) and rejected by high school principals everywhere, the Schott Perfecto became a symbol for rebellion, machismo and coolness.

Quoting from their website, by the 1970’s “Schott became synonymous with the punk rock movement. The current wave of rebellion came to the streets of downtown New York City through underground music venue, CBGB. The Schott Perfecto® was the uniform for rock stars like The Ramones, Blondie, Joan Jett and The Sex Pistols.”

The Ramones. Shaggy but oh so cool…

Oddly, when I was a teen-ager I did not own one. The 50’s seemed goofy to me (see Happy Days) and besides, I had the fashion sense of a nematode.

Ah, but what I wouldn’t give now for a 50’s era Perfecto. What few are available are either in terrible shape or can be had for two grand or more on the Japanese market. Thank God the Japanese are conspicuously smaller than we robust Americans or I’d likely have bought one. I have however found several fine examples from the 70’s and 80’s (far less expensive) and they now adorn a rolling rack in my garage.

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I lovingly washed and restored each one of them, replacing a star here and a belt there, careful not to diminish their character and patina. To learn how to care for these gems I made friends with leather craftsmen, like Al’s Attire in North Beach or my man, Misak at Tony’s Luggage & Repair in Mill Valley. I researched the brand. I became part of the Schott community, asking questions on their website, requesting hardware and advice. In short, I fell in love.

And now, almost every chilly San Francisco morning, I choose one and make my way into the world. For though I am a father and a copywriter, when I put on a black leather jacket I am Perfecto.


Can’t. Stop. Writing.

Per my agent’s request, I am expanding a short story I wrote into a detailed movie treatment for Dark Castle Entertainment. Surprise: it’s a horror piece, an allegory about man and nature.

I post this news because it’s my news but also because the writing of said treatment comes at the expense of other endeavors, including this blog. While writing is homework for many people, it is nothing short of my passion. And like most passion, it’s all encompassing. In other words, once I start writing I don’t stop. It is like climbing a mountain. You want to get to the top. If I pause too long between efforts there is fear, perhaps unfounded, I will lose the motivation to continue.

But it’s more than that. Selfishly, I also do not want to stop. Getting in the zone (be it on a screenplay, novel or advertising campaign) is one of the most exciting feelings I know. My whole being is focused on the task. I think of nothing else. I want to spend time with nothing else. If this sounds like a love affair between man and story that is because it is. Obsession would be an accurate description.

I once read that former adman and famous screenwriter/director, John Hughes wrote many of his screenplays from start to finish without stopping for anything, including food and sleep. In longhand! His passion is obvious in the stories he created. But even if it wasn’t, Hughes’ obsession is completely understandable… to me anyway.

I started writing my treatment on Sunday and I’ve logged ten hours or more on it every day and night since. I will be done this weekend. Since I am not employed right now so-called real work is not a distraction. Yet, I am a husband and father. Though tempting, to not honor and take pleasure in those roles would be sinful. My middle child celebrated a birthday and my father is in town. I also take my children to various activities. In addition, I am equally fanatic about working out, finding one hour every day to do so.

Therefore, there have been plenty of breaks. Good, important, life affirming breaks. Yet, you’ll notice I call them “breaks” as if my real life was about writing and all the other stuff merely a distraction. I’m hoping other creative people can relate.

My solution has always been the same. It’s also the same message we tell our clients when they wrestle with branding versus selling: You gotta do both! It ain’t easy. In trying I sometimes make painful decisions, choosing art over everything else. But it gives me so much joy and satisfaction…

I wonder if some of you are “wired” the same way and, if so, what do you do about it?