April in Paris, doo doo de doo doo. Count Basie’s version of this 1932 classic show tune is one of my favorite springtime songs. It makes me feel good to hear it at any time of year. Wouldn’t you agree that springtime in Nashville is truly wonderful? Well, as long as you’ve got plenty of Zyrtec on hand that is.
This spring may be an exception for me. My mood is more “Springtime for Hitler,” another show tune of an altogether different color.
Back in the ’90s, when I was an aspiring long-haired rocker rolling around Brooklyn and Manhattan, I had a job working in the marketing department of a mega law firm. Donald Trump was a client of the real estate department. Mia Farrow retained the firm to represent her when she divorced Woody Allen. I made sure the firm’s brochures and such were in perfect order. I’s crossed and T’s dotted. The firm’s offices were at 56th and Madison, the belly of the beast, as it were.
These were entry-level, fresh-out-of-college, F train-commuting, bleary-eyed days. I made good money, had a place of my own in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, and spent every cent on CDs, bar tabs, and pizza. I played music at night and wore a tie by day. If you saw me walking down Atlantic Avenue, you might say, “Who is that kid dressed like a bespectacled Donnie Brasco?” Think lots of leather car-coats and polyester. I thought I looked cool.
My friends were working at entry-level corporate jobs too. We would get together over beers and compare notes. We played a game. We would try to see how long we could keep a conversation going, filled with big important sounding words like TQM — total quality management, if you will — while saying nothing of consequence. A typical sentence, overheard whilst sitting in minion-like silence and staring at the big board might go something like this, “You need to gain clarity on whether or not these systems and processes are artifacts of your organization’s culture.” What?
“We need to move the chains on this one. I would also suggest we stand this up in a sandbox environment before we bring it to alpha. We need a mobile first, fully committed approach here. If that’s not feasible, then I think we need to level-set. What’s our glide path? Put me on bcc if I don’t need to know.”
Ok. Sure. You got it. I was fascinated by the bosses’ abilities to sound so smart and say nothing. It was the rope-a-dope. I was George Foreman and they were Muhammad Ali. I was dazzled and pummeled all at once. This bullshit was astounding. This board meeting speak was a phenomena! It was also a fun drinking game.
Twenty-four months later I was living in Nashville, playing in Joe, Marc’s Brother and working in a coffee shop.
Looking back, I realize that this wasn’t all gobbledygook. These were Harvard Business School concepts; high math and such. Not total nonsense, which is how I heard them as a rocker with a stressful day job.
And now I finally make a point: I have a new confusion phenomena to be morbidly fascinated by — influencers! What in the Sam Hill is an influencer? Corporate speakers got nothing on these champions of vapidity. These revelers of mediocrity, talking loud and saying nothing, existing only in the amorphous cloud of the internet. Kardashians and Jenners out there somewhere creating listicles of their top ten favorite plastic surgeons and private resorts. Listicle? What is that, an anatomical issue?
Influencer? Don’t you mean tool for the man? It’s more rope-a-dope. Dazzle the lemmings with clickbait and we’ll sell ’em more gadgets! “I’m an influencer, I have 100,000 Instagram followers, and I get paid to appear at parties. My life is awesome. Follow me!” I will not. Get a job, kid.
Obviously, I’ve been surfing the internet too long and my serotonin levels are off. Old man Haggerty needs to turn off his phone, read a book, and go for a nice, springtime walk. Join me if you’d like, provided it’s in your DNA.