Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pitching a Project and Visiting Scott

My client pitch the other week was a bit surrealistic. I’m used to doing pitches after flying to the Northeast or driving to Philly or South Jersey…you know…ground zero for Biotech/Pharma/Diagnostics/Device companies. I only do strategy work with organizations seeking access to the healthcare economy. Scary ain’t it?
Living inside the Beltway and not being in politics is I suspect, kinda like living in Hollywood and not being in the movie business. One thing’s for sure, there aren’t many Biotech/Pharma/Diagnostics/Device companies around here. There’s plenty of work around here for healthcare strategists but its policy, advocacy and political stuff. I’ve done that work in a previous life and as I mentioned in another story; I got to the point where I couldn’t shower enough to get the smarm off. The arrogance, puffery and ego manifest in people whose power base is grounded in throwing your money around…the Federal tax dollars that you pony-up to run the place…is nauseating. And the ocean of sycophant cohorts is even more dry-heave inducing. So let me just get off of that little rant and say that I won’t declare healthcare policy work off the table forever. But for now, me-no-likey the option.

Oh shit. That’s right; this was supposed to be about a product pitch. My meds are slow to kick-in this morning. Shut up. Sit tight. We’ll get there. Ok, so there are a few Biotech companies here in the area and I was asked to pitch for a project at one a few weeks ago. It felt weird to leave my home and be amidst potential clients within an hour. Kinda nice actually. But don’t start rootin’ for me to get work that would mitigate my travel. There ain’t enough of it around here and the sessions I do are almost always held at offsite meetings anyway.
But what to wear? I have clients who allow jeans on campus every day and I have no remaining clients that require men to wear ties. I try to adhere to the conventional wisdom of “not wearing a home jersey to an away game” but I’m not wearing jeans to a pitch meeting and especially not to a pitch with a client organization that’s never done any work…z-e-r-o work with my little shop. I like jeans...a lot...but not when interacting with potential new clients. And I don’t mind dressing slightly better than my clients. Actually, given the societal hygiene holiday that we seem to be on, just washing your ass and donning something clean puts you to the right of the  proverbial bell curve. Sorry…bad visual…bad comment. Shut up.
And it’s hot on pitch day…Africa hot and prematurely so. I’m generally not a fan of the proverbial black shirt buttoned to the neck kinda look. My biggest issue with it manifests when the coat is off. The previously squared away neck, all buttoned up, gives way to at least for me with my little bird arms, a nerdy display that begs unleashing said top button. But I’m not gonna take my coat off so I go with it.
Flusser three/two open patch pockets and peak lapels. My standard house model for years and it all seems to work for me. It’s important to me every day but especially on pitch days…If I don’t feel right about what I have on, I’m not gonna be as “right” as I could be.
I’d say that this Flusser tropical weight suit is cooler than any cotton or linen options I coulda contrived. It breaths. Poplin doesn’t and linen is deceivingly oppressive…especially some of that bulletproof Irish linen of which I have a few trousers. That stuff lasts forever but it’s freakin’ hot. And seersucker was out of the question…too casual and too Southern. Y’all.
I finished this rig off with my now completely destroyed last week, Edward Green suede monks.
Rarely do I know the outcome of a pitch before I leave said dog-pony show but on this occasion I did. I’ll be doing a one-day thing for my now—new client next month and I hope to leverage that into a nice little annuity for 2012. So now I can swing by and see Scott.
I became aware of F. Scott Fitzgerald when I was in high school. Still uninterested in anything academically rigorous, I trudged compliantly through The Great Gatsby during twelfth grade English class and I wrote the proverbial Gatsby Symbolism paper at some point. But I think that I became more intrigued with the idea of F. Scott Fitzgerald than any of his literary output. Tweed sportcoats and neckties to class at Princeton…courting a gal in Montgomery Alabama…literary Paris. Hell, pondering these things while sitting in Florence South Carolina made them even more seductive.
Fitzgerald’s short stories were fodder for me during undergrad but I was more focused on acting out some of Scott’s debauchery than digging much deeper into his words. I resumed my interest in Fitzgerald’s work and life several years ago and predictably for me, began an erudite flurry of again reading his work and wondering about him. Fitzgerald and Hemingway…Fitzgerald and Maxwell Perkins…all of the typical stuff one would want to sponge-up amidst such a curious burst.
Babylon Revisited is probably my favorite Fitzgerald short story but I haven’t re-read it since becoming a father and I probably won’t. As much as my recent go-again with Gatsby was for some unexplained reason, superb, I don’t want to feel, with my now highly tuned parental heart, the hurt of either father or daughter manifest in Babylon… "Daddy, I want to come and live with you," she said suddenly. His heart leaped; he had wanted it to come like this. "Aren't you perfectly happy?" "Yes, but I love you better than anybody. And you love me better than anybody, don't you, now that mummy's dead?" "Of course I do. But you won't always like me best, honey. You'll grow up and meet somebody your own age and go marry him and forget you ever had a daddy." "Yes, that's true," she agreed tranquilly.” Please. Just shoot my mawkish ass now.
Tender is the Night became my runner up to Gatsby. George Frazier IV told me a story that I’d already read in Charles Fountain’s biography of his father. Frazier IV was badly injured in a car accident along with actor William Holden’s son in Switzerland. Head injuries and the associated slow recovery of verbal and motor skills demanded that teen-aged Frazier IV remain in Switzerland for several months. George Frazier read to his son, Frazier IV, daily. 
Here’s an email excerpt from Frazier IV, owner of the oldest pair of Belgian shoes I've ever seen and besides that; just one of the coolest, nicest people I've ever met… “I am, of course, a huge fan of F. Scott: as I probably mentioned, my father read me Tender is the Night when I was laid up in a Swiss rest home, so the book had a disproportionate influence on me. I later decided The Great Gatsby was as close to a perfect American novel as I was likely to read.” I suppose it's no surprise that after leaving the Swiss rest home, Frazier IV enrolled at Yale and ended up with an English degree.
I’d known for years that Scott was buried in Rockville Maryland but I’d never visited his gravesite. Which quite frankly, is unusual for me since I’ve always sought out historical sites and graves and landmarks reflective of people and events. I remember as a really little kid; just being riveted by the fact that I was standing on the very spot where some Revolutionary or Civil War General had stood. Ten years ago, I spent almost an entire day traipsing through Kensal Green cemetery in London, looking for the grave of Vanity Fair artist Sir Leslie M. Ward aka “Spy”…and yes, with the help of a gravedigger, I found it.
So why I didn’t visit Scott sooner, I don’t know. But after my pitch the other week, I set out to do so. He, Zelda and Scottie are buried at St. Mary’s which is now amidst a frenetically busy amalgam of Rockville urban sprawl. 
There’s not much peaceful about this little final-resting-place what with the buzz of traffic just over the fence. But I’m sure it wasn’t like that when Scott stood in 1931 at this very spot, just in from Paris, as they lowered his father in the ground.
So I visited for a while and would have been, under other circumstances, satiated. But Scott’s body had lain elsewhere for the first thirty-five years post mortem. He was a Catholic in bad standing at the time of his death thus interment at St. Mary’s wasn’t an option so they buried him in Rockville Cemetery.
 I needed to see where they’d first buried him…where for the first thirty-five years; whoever in the world might have loved or revered him would have stood and pondered the man. Zelda was first buried there as well.
Scott died in Hollywood. His poorly staged body was shipped to Baltimore and was then handled by Pumphrey Funeral Home in Bethesda. I’d driven by Pumphrey Funeral Home a zillion times en route to pick up LFG…not knowing that it hosted the paltry few people who still respected Scott enough to show up and pay their respects. Maxwell Perkins attended. Gerald and Sarah Murphy were there. All total, less than thirty people congregated at Pumphreys on Wisconsin Avenue for the Episcopalian led finale. I’m just restating well known stories here and my Dorothy Parker mention won’t be new to any Scott devotee. Parker whispered aloud when viewing Scott’s body, a Gatsby line… “The poor son of a bitch.”
My GPS led me to Rockville Cemetery but not to Scott’s original gravesite. I had on my iPhone a small, grainy photograph of the original site that I’d found online but that was all the help I was gonna get. The sleepy old place had no markers directing one to the original site and nobody was around for me to ask.
So I began a somewhat focused slog through the graves using the grainy photo as best I could. Surely when I found the unique gravestone with the skull and crossbones, I’d be standing near the right spot. And I did. And I was.
Who visited during the thirty-five years? Fitzgerald’s reputation and legacy was, for at least half that time, spotty at best. Did Scottie come back during the eight years before she would return to bury her mother? I visited my dad’s grave at least once a year for the first eight years post mortem. I never go anymore.
So my pitch day was a rich one…co-mingled with focused dialogue regarding my potential value to a client and right-brained, visually fueled considerations of Scott...The poor son of a bitch.

Onward. Hoping to avoid any F. Scott…Babylon Revisited chapters in my journey.



Summer is a Verb said...

Where's the pic of those cool a** Belgies for us under educated folk? XXOO

ilovelimegreen said...

I have always thought Pumphrey's was in a bit of a timewarp from the Roaring Twenties. I am not surprised that they handled the arrangements for Fitzgerald.

My family moved when I was 15 literally around the corner from one of F. Scott's and Zelda's Baltimore residences, now a JHU dorm. I walked by there en route to the school bus and dreamed of wearing a flapper dress, drinking champagne and doing the Charleston while being in love with a man like Fitzgerald.

And ADG, that black buttoned up shirt and jacket combo just doesn't look like anything I would ever expect to see you wearing.

Anonymous said...

You are such a genius, such. Lord you remind me I've got Pumphrey relatives over in PV, ain't laid eyes on my cousin for decades. Max, I'm deficient in reading comprehension, you may have said why FSF finally mea culpa'd enough to satisfy crosstown Catholic entrance/exit requirements, but I missed it, hepmeronda. Cogratulations on the annuity, such a genius.

ADG said...

Flo...I was married in the little Episcopal church at Ponte Vedra. Regarding FSF and the Catholic Church...a group of FSF devotees in tandem with Scottie Fitzgerald successfully petitioned the whoever the hell in the Church you petition for such allow the re-burial at St. Mary's. Das all I got.

LimeGreener...I shan't be wearing said contrivance again. patient.

Scale Worm said...

What a great read, in the sun, over a fresh cup o' Joe.
You are gifted sir, and I love your wish to respect folks that have contributed to who you have become. I have the same need for respecting, and do so whenever I am somewhere that a person of history, dear to me has fallen, or is laid to rest. It is sad to see his grave looking so lonely, with the wilted flowers in a jar. Chopin's grave has piles of flowers daily appointed by admirers, while FSF, as important as he is in American arts and history, seems barely noticed.
Your comment regarding hygiene, then this image, ties modern times together here in this once proud respectful nation, both lacking now among the masses, except for some of us with the old guard attitude.
Great collection of books btw, I love the EH Vinca collective, one of my favorite carry about reads. Happy Sunday ADGII, and thank you again.

pigtown said...

do you know that dorothy parker's ashes are with the national NAACP in baltimore? there's also a small garden there in her memory.

c'mon up and see it.

CeceliaMc said...

Thanks for not going gently into that denim night...

LOVE the last picture. Thank you so much for it!

We ARE like that, aren't we.

oldominion said...

Jaysus, lad, another flawless entry...Was wandering around Charles Village B'more with the boys last year when I just happened to spot a plaque on a building, no doubt the JHU dorm mentioned above, where FSKF had once lived.

The little Episcopal Ch in PV...OMG...have only been there once before--for a wedding no less--and it all ended badly. Fistfights between the groom and father-in-law. A fringe benefit of being a writer and having gone to Sewanee. Tell you about it when next you're in Charm City visiting MFF of PTD. Nothing to do with Karma, I am sure.

Anonymous said...

"having gone to Sewanee"

My brother went to Sewanee, perhaps before the era of which you speak, all male it was. I read ADG talking about Fitzgerald going to class in a coat and tie, heck my brother wore an academic gown to class.

Preppy 101 said...

My kind of post . . . xoxo

ADG said...

Preppy101...I know that you are just reveling with that grandchild! Congrats.

Flo...I bet he he didn't have on underdrawers beneath that gown. Silly Sewanee boys. wedding and the party the night before outdoors on the lawn of a home on Ponte Vedra the ocean...and our reception dinner and dance was just great. No fistfights but alas, the same ultimate endgame. BUT EVERYTHING NOW IS OK...I AM NOT...I REPEAT...I AM NOT. BITTER.

CMac...Y'all may be like THAT but I am not. I'm a powerboat beating against the old ChrisCraft with a lot of teak and mahogany and a driver. Sitting in my lap is a Grace Kelly esque gal and we're both drinking champagne. She capriciously tells the driver to stop being a wussy and chris the damned craft faster against the current.

I'm trying to be cool with it all. But chriscrafting against the current, even within an elegant vessel adorned with a Grace Kelly type talisman on my lap, the chop and current makes me a bit queasy. Still smiling, I upchuck. Everywhere.

So goes my effort to navigate life's current with elegance and aplomb. As usual, I mess up my and often, someone else's clothes.

megtown...I WILL come up. Sometime. In my Chris Craft.

Scale...thanks. I wish it didn't have to be "old guard-ian" to simply believe in decorum and deportment. It's all but gone.

Anonymous said...

OK, Paladin, I understand your black shirt. You are, after all, the hired gun from (usually) Out Of Town. I'm just a country lawyer, but it all looks a little Alec Baldwin Opening Scene in Glengarry Glen Ross for my own taste. But you know the turf, I don't.

I am aware of two film treatments of FSF, the new one from Woody Allen, where he fares better than Hemingway. Poor Hemingway. He wrote that way sometimes, but he didn't necessarily mean for it to be the basis of a religion, you know. I would have never guessed that you could stick the standard Owen Wilson character into a Woody Allen movie, but that just goes to show what I know about movies. Sort of like telling a guy to dress like Jack Nicholson to go to a pitch meeting. The other FitzGerald on film is one that was made by Showtime, with Jeremy Irons as a late-Hollywood era FSF. It's called Last Call and worth the time it takes up, which so many things aren't. Get it on the Netfrix.

Speaking of, Archie Leach still looks surprisingly Astaire like in TO CATCH A THIEF and Grace Kelly ... Well, let's just say I'd wear a black sportshirt for Grace Kelly.

willie from the country

VogueOntheRange said...

F. Scott Fitzgerald ... now didn't he write the Star Spangled Banner? ;)

Anonymous said...

"I bet he he didn't have on underdrawers beneath that gown."

Underneath his 'Order of the Gownsmen' gown he wore the further-required coat AND tie to class. Those days is up and went and gone foevahmoah.

BMO'C said...

Always thought it was pretty cool to know that FSF was buried right next door as I was sitting in class as a young student at St. Mary's Elementary School. Thanks for the post.

ADG said...

BMO'C...I'd a thought so too. When I was in Elementary School, for some reason, all of the neighborhood canines "made love" right outside our classroom window.

Flo...if I'd a had to have worn all dat, certainly I'd a gone commando. stunning little legal eagle world traveler...yes, indeed, he wrote the Star Spangled Banner.

Willie...get your ass up to Winnsboro and defend sumpin'.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Now that is the way to end a day's work. Well that and a see-through perhaps.

Those EG's look like they have miles left in 'em.

ADG said... was a fun little jaunt. And...sorry that I missed y'all the other night. Oh, and the wait till I write the story of their demise. Tragic. It happened after the photos included in the F. Scott story.