Friday, August 7, 2009

Canadian State Troopers?

When I lived in Manhattan, I never drove. I walked and took the subway with the occasional ride in a yellow taxi or a black town car. That all changed when I established my primary residence in Virginia. Now I drive everywhere, including on Interstate 64 to the Richmond Airport so I can fly up to New York, Toronto and other places where I don't have to worry about being captured by dualing banjo-playing hillbillies who think I have "a reeee-al pur-dy mouth...."

When I first moved to the South, I got a real kick out of the State troopers. I found them to be pretty much just as they're portrayed on television and in the movies--close cropped haircuts, brimmed hats and, of course, mirrored sunglasses. In my third month living here, I got pulled over by a State trooper while taking my parents to the airport. My dad described our experience as "neat," considered it a highlight of his trip and still talks about it. I suppose I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been issued a $300 speeding ticket....

Maybe Canada should create its own corps of State troopers. Who patrols the Trans-Canada Highway? The RCMP? If you ask me, having a guy like this:

around would be sort of fun. I know my dad would like it!

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Gladiator" Or "Frank The Tank?"

I'm frustrated. My New York marketing initiative has pretty much come to an end. Some nice coversation but no mandates. None. F*ck. Things really are as bad as everyone says they are and I've got the "boots on the ground" intelligence to back it up. F*ck, f*ck, f*ck-itty f*ck.

One of my buddies in Toronto who has her own very successful boutique law practice catering to the venture capital community had this to say about my plight: "It's crazy, you're all ready to go and--well--there's nothing for you to do. It's sort of like you're a gladiator looking for the Coliseum." I think that's apt, although it's not so bad thinking of myself as this guy:

Sadly, I feel a little more like this guy:

I know the photo is a bit dark, but that's "Frank the Tank" in the midst of the famous one-man streaking scene from the movie Old School. Out in front of the crowd all by yourself? Mr. Winky flapping in the breeze? I can relate. F*ck.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Canada Day Coffee Crisp Angst

Happy Canada Day!

Today's New York Times contains an interesting article where a number of Canadians living in the United States discuss what they miss most about Canada. You can check out the article here:

I started salivating in sympathy when one of the writers mentioned that the one thing he misses most about Canada is ready access to Coffee Crisp candy bars. I hear you brother! When I first moved here, I was outraged, OUTRAGED that I couldn't find Coffee Crisps. Anywhere. Then, a couple of years ago, I spotted a box of Coffee Crisps in one of the Hudson's News stores in Grand Central. They didn't seem very popular and, after a few months, the store stopped carrying them.

On this Canada Day, let's honor a real Canadian icon--the Coffee Crisp:

Once again, Happy Canada Day!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BlackBerry Manners

There's an interesting article in today's Globe & Mail about BlackBerry etiquette. You can check the article out here:

I laughed out loud when I read that nearly twenty percent of American workers have been reprimanded for inappropriate BlackBerry conduct. Why the laughter? I'm one of them!

I got my first BlackBerry in September 2003 when my firm started rolling them out. It was love at first use! I just couldn't stop checking the thing. This became an issue during one meeting that was particularly excruciatingly boring. I kept checking my BlackBerry every few minutes to the obvious annoyance of the senior partner that I was working for who was seated to my left.

After my fourth or fifth BlackBerry check, the senior partner reached for his. He struggled a bit with the tiny keyboard but finally typed a message. He aggressively hit "send" and slammed his BlackBerry down. Less than a second later, my BlackBerry buzzed. I picked it up and noticed that my new e-mail was from the senior partner. It read: "STOP checking your e-mail."

I looked over at the senior partner. He glared at me, his arms crossed in disapproval. I gently placed my BlackBerry on the conference room table, etiquette lesson learned. Lest you think me a girly-man, here's a photo of the senior partner in question:

You'd have put your BlackBerry down too, trust me!

Monday, June 22, 2009

In Touch With My Wild Side

Recently, I've taken to watching videos on Youtube when I need a break. I just came across the video for the song "Wild Side" from Motley Crue's 1987 album Girls, Girls, Girls. Here's the link to the video:

I was never that much a fan of The Crue when I was younger but I have to say that this video is AWESOME! "Wild Side" isn't just a song, it's a freakin' ANTHEM! I simply can't resist the urge to turn the volume up, WAY UP, when I watch this video. My favorite part? Tommy Lee's rotating drums! When the pyrotechnics flanking his rotating drum kit blow, I'm so amped up I emit an involuntary primal yell! AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME!

What's the takeaway here? Probably something like: "You can take the boy out of small town British Columbia but you can never take the small town British Columbia out of the boy!"

Inspired By Mine That Bird

Given the reference to Mine That Bird in the title of this post, you're no doubt expecting me to talk about his Canadian connection--the fact that Mine That Bird was one of the top horses in Canada when he raced at Woodbine before winning the Kentucky Derby as he is about to do in the following photo:

Although Mine That Bird's Canadian connection is a good story, it's been done to death. Instead, I'm going to recount a story about geldings, of which Mine That Bird is one.

In July 2003, I represented Verizon Wireless in connection with the sale of its 39.4% interest in Grupo Iusacell, a publicly-traded Mexican cellular telephone company. Sullivan & Cromwell acted for Vodafone which also held a significant percentage of Grupo Iusacell stock. During a lull in the kick off meeting with the acquirer and its counsel, the topic turned to horse racing.

"Oh yeah, he's a great horse--especially for a gelding," one of the business principles from the acquirer said about some horse I'd never heard of.

The immaculately coiffed, young male associate from Sullivan & Cromwell sitting across the table furrowed his brow. "What's a gelding?" he asked.

The business principle from the acquirer laughed. "Well. Hmmm, how should I put this," he said. "A gelding is a male horse who--uh, uh--whose had his testicles removed...."

"NO!" shouted the associate from Sullivan & Cromwell while involuntarily clenching his thighs and buttocks. "Why would anyone do THAT?"

The business principle grinned and explained: "Fixing male horses like that has lots of advantages. They're less aggressive and they're easier to control. They pretty much just do what they're told to do with no fuss."

The partner from Sullivan & Cromwell perked up and raised his eyebrows theatrically. "You know what?" he asked rhetorically, "maybe we should think about doing THAT to our male associates!"

Everyone in the room erupted with raucous laughter. Everyone, that is, but the associate from Sullivan & Cromwell....

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Kurt Warner's Wise Words

I've now pretty much wrapped up the Toronto portion of my marketing initiative. I had some good meetings but, so far, no engagements. I think I might have overestimated the need that Canadian private equity firms and pension plans have for U.S. transactional counsel. In any event, it's time to take my show to the bright lights of New York! I've identified ninety-five middle market private equity firms that I believe could use my services. I've started contacting the dozen or so that have listed Canada as a geographic market of interest. I fully intend to keep riding this Canada horse until it drops dead, rolls over and rigor mortis sets in!

It's probably still too early to get discouraged but I have to admit that I'm incredibly frustrated. I'm trying to take a little inspiration from Kurt Warner. I've always liked Kurt Warner and not just because he played for the Giants in 2004, as seen below:

I really admire how Kurt never lets adversity get to him. He takes everything in stride and just goes about getting the job done. He went from Super Bowl MVP with St. Louis to backing up Eli Manning in New York and Matt Leinert in Arizona before re-emerging as Arizona's starter and taking them to the Super Bowl.

In one pre-Super Bowl interview I saw, the interviewer asked Kurt if he ever lost confidence in himself or his abilities during the downswing in his career. I'm paraphrasing here, but his answer was something like: "No, I never questioned my own abilities. I knew what I could do. I'd done it before. What I did lose confidence in was the game--the league--the way things work. I wasn't sure I'd ever get another chance to do what I knew I could still do and do much better than other people."

Kurt Warner's wise words really resonated with me then and resonate even more loudly with me now.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Canadian Justice?

OK, given the title of this post you're probably expecting a diatribe about how somebody was dealt with unfairly by the Canadian legal system. WRONG! I'm using the word "justice" as a synonym for judge.

This morning, the "short list" of candidates being considered by President Obama to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States was released. One of those being considered is Jennifer Granholm, the Governor of Michigan, shown here in full politician mode:

In addition to being the Governor of Michigan, Ms. Granholm is--wait for it--a Canadian! As set out in her Wikipedia biography (, she was born in Vancouver.

To heck with all this crap about appointing "the first Latino justice"--how about "the first Canadian justice" instead!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Where Is Canada's Next Supermodel?

My wife subscribes to Vanity Fair. This month's edition features Gisele Bundchen on the cover. I realize that I'm going to surprise a lot of people by saying this, but I don't think she's really that hot. Check out her cover shot:

Although the makeup and airbrushing magicians have managed to deal with the issue here, I'm always struck by how "manish" Gisele's face looks. I know that sounds mean, but if you're going to be held out as the top supermodel in the world, you have to expect a few dissenting opinions....

Who do I think is the hottest supermodel on earth? That's an easy one. Here's my pick, Bar Refaeli, on the front page of the Sports Illustrated website:

Isn't she awesome! In addition to being physically perfect in pretty much every way, she also has an incredibly alluring Israeli accent. All in all, Bar looks and sounds like a sexy super spy from a classic James Bond movie! Here's another shot of Bar in all her swimsuit glory:

Mercy. See what I mean about Gisele looking like a man?

So, where's Canada's next supermodel? The last widely-recognized Canadian supermodel that I can think of is Linda Evangelsita. Guess what? She was born in 1965. She's older than me! Let's go Canada. Show us what you got!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Gainey and Putin: Twins!

As I scrolled through the sports section of the on-line edition of The Globe & Mail yesterday, I noticed the following photo:

"What the hell!" I exclaimed to myself. "Vladimir Putin is coaching a hockey team?"

I then looked at the caption and realized that the photo is of Bob Gainey. Bob Gainey! Wow, he doesn't look anything like the Bob Gainey I recall from when I was living in Montreal and Gainey was playing for the Canadiens. In fact, he doesn't look anything like the post-Habs Gainey in management roles either.

If you're not sure about my confusion, check out the following photo of Vladimir Putin talking to some Russian miners:

Eerie, isn't it!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Simply The Best"--Canadian Style!

I was quite the guy "back in the day" earlier this decade when I was a senior associate running billion dollar M&A transactions. When my young assistant asked me in her Brooklyn accent what my personal theme song was, I responded without hesitation: "Simply the Best, baby, you know--that Tina Turner song!" My assistant and all of the other assistants in the area roared with laughter. From that point on, any time I was feeling self-congratulatory, I would look around feigning bewilderment and ask: "Hey, can anybody else hear that Tina Turner song?"

Needing a little motivation the other day, I went to YouTube and typed in "Tina Turner" and "Simply the Best." As I relived my former glory watching the video, my eyes shifted to the related videos on the right side of the screen. I noticed a version of the song by Celine Dion. I actually like Celine Dion but I wasn't expecting her to do much with "Simply the Best."

Boy, was I wrong! Celine does a great job! Check out the video for yourself here:

Now, wasn't that something!

Smile And Dial!

I spent the month of May and the first two weeks of June 1987 hanging out in Montreal and taking one summer-school finance class at McGill.

The finance class didn't take up that much time so I took a part-time job at the Montreal Gazette selling subscriptions over the phone. I knew going in that it would be an absolutely brutal job. However, I was only planning to do it for four weeks and I figured that learning to cold call people might be a handy skill to have later in life.

As I expected, the job was agonizing. I thought that the Montreal Gazette might provide some sort of training. It didn't. When we arrived in the morning, a scrawny assistant manager with feathered hair and a cheesy, wispy little moustache would hand us a list of names and telephone numbers. Once we were seated, the manager, a grossly overweight bald guy in his early forties, would stand among the bank of phones to report on the prior day's results. Of course, they were never good enough. After beating us down, the manager would offer us some words of encouragement. He'd end each speech the same way--bellowing: "SMILE AND DIAL!"

Although I detested the job, I was right about the experience teaching me not to fear the phone. Any time I find myself hesitating to call a prospective client, I just think of the fat manager at the Montreal Gazette, laugh a little and then yell: "SMILE AND DIAL!" It works every time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


It's hard to believe that an entire month has passed since my last post. However, I've been busy trying to get my new law practice up and running. I was in Toronto last week on a business development junket and had a very good meeting with one of the largest pension funds in Canada.

You're no doubt thinking, "What kind of an idiot starts a business in THIS economic climate?" Well, my business model is to provide pension funds, private equity firms and corporate legal departments with cost-effective, senior level U.S. transactional counsel on an interim or project basis. My hourly billing rate is less than 40% of what it would be if I were still with a major New York firm. That should sell very, very, very well provided that clients are actually DOING transactional work....

To be honest, I'm not sure how this is going to work out. On the one hand, I could end up making a lot more money, working far fewer hour and doing it all on my own terms. In other words, I could rightly cry "FREEEEEE-DOMMMMMM!" like this guy:

On the other hand, maybe the kind of transactional work in which I specialize will be going into a prolonged funk. What if things have changed forever? My big fear is that I've geared up to fight a war that's no longer being waged. Maybe I'm the corporate lawyer version of this guy:

--one of those World War II Japanese soldiers who fought on oblivious to the fact that the war was over (the photo above is of Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who continued to fight on until 1974--you can check out the whole story here

Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Pilot To Bombardier...."

My next flight to Toronto will be on board an Air Canada Jazz Dash-8 sort of like this one:

I've flown on Dash-8s before and it's definitely a different experience from flying on jets. The dull roar of the propellers is omnipresent--it doesn't seem to fade into the "white noise" background like the sound of jet engines does. Also, the cruising altitude is a lot lower. You can see down to the ground most of the time.

Flying on a Dash-8 always summons up my "inner Walter Mitty." I feel like I'm on a bombing run over WW II Germany in a B-24 bomber like this one:

Isn't that an awesome looking plane? If you blow up the photo, you'll see that there's a skull and cross bones painted on the tail. Cool!

I'm totally psyched about my flight to Toronto. The Niagara Escarpment region sort of looks like Eastern Germany. Hamilton will make a fine stand-in for Dresden and as we approach you just know I'll be saying, "Pilot to bombardier. Pilot to bombardier," in my head. And yes, in my mind, the tail of my plane will be adorned with a skull and cross bones....