George Lois asks: Can you do better?

george lois can you do better

George Lois was a real Madison Avenue adman from the 1950s and 1960s, and after. He wrote a book some years ago called DAMN GOOD ADVICE, which is a combination memoir / self-accolade / idea book.



It’s a good read, and a funny one. I recommend it.



(Incidentally: if you watch “Mad Men,” you will be interested to know that George Lois is rumored to be the model for Don Draper, the main character in the series. George, in his book, hotly denies it. “And besides,” he says, “I was more attractive!”, and shows this picture:



george lois don draper



(So what do you think of someone who says: “That’s not me! And besides, I was more attractive than that!”? Hmm. I know what I think.)



Anyway: the book is full of good stories.



This one nags at me frequently:



A bigwig goes into a bar and says to the bartender, “Give me the best Manhattan you can make.”



Bartender does so, and gives it to Bigwig. Bigwig tastes it. “It’s good,” he says. “Can you do better?”



Bartender tries again. This goes on for several repetitions. Finally, after sampling Manhattan #5 or so, Bigwig says: “This is excellent!”, and then he glares at Bartender. “Why the fuck didn’t you make it like this the first time I asked?”



I have no answer to that.



What does “best” mean?



And why don’t we do it all the time?


New York City


Partner and I take a day trip to New York City once or twice a year. Sometimes we see a show (we saw Angela Lansbury in “Blithe Spirit” a couple of years ago, and she was hysterical, and very spry for an octogenarian). Sometimes we do museums. (I could spend the day in the Metropolitan with no trouble at all.  I could spend eighteen days in the Metropolitan with no trouble at all.  The room full of Monets is worth about two years of looking, all by itself.)



We eat somewhere different every time. We usually lunch at one of those crazy little corner places that look like the interior of a Seinfeld episode. For dinner we hit Restaurant Row – Russian? Italian? Brazilian? – or sometimes pub food, or a steakhouse. Once we ate in Chinatown at an all-you-can-eat place, and it wasn’t very good, but at least it was different.



Usually we see someone famous in the street. We saw Edie Falco a few years ago, which was very neat, but it was also fun to see the people trailing after her and surreptitiously photographing her. We saw Brad Garrett, who is (I think) actually even taller than he appears on TV, towering over the crowd on the sidewalk, with that nasty don’t-talk-to-me look on his face, and I wouldn’t have dared to go near him. And Daniel Davis (whom we saw in “La Cage” on Broadway). And even the guy who played the mayor on “Gilmore Girls,” whatever his name was, waiting on line with us to get into “Spamalot.”



Last spring around this time we did something we’ve both wanted to do for a long time: we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn.



If you’ve ever wanted to do this, here are a couple of tips:



  • It’s beautiful. Do it right away. You will be able to brag about doing it for the rest of your life.

  • Pick a nice day.

  • Take your camera.

  • Do not suppose you will be alone on the bridge. You will be accompanied by several thousand other people.

  • There is also a bicycle lane. The bicyclists are angry and deadly. Do not step into the bicycle lane.

  • Brooklyn is on the other side (the welcome-to-Brooklyn sign at the end of the bridge adds: “How Sweet It Is!”). Go left after the bridge and you’ll be in Dumbo, which is very hip and artsy. Go right and you’ll be in Brooklyn Heights, which is pleasant and residential. We had dinner at a nice neighborhood place and took the subway back to Manhattan.



Doctor Johnson said that a man who was tired of London was tired of life.



I will never tire of New York City.




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