Tuesday, December 12, 2006

With A Bow On Top

We’re at kind of an in-between dead spot in the Steelers season, so let’s have more fun with holiday season television commercials.

Ranking right up there on the annoyance meter and vying with jewelry store spots for Top Spot in the Cloying Category are the annual spate of holiday-season luxury-car-as-gift commercials.

You know the ones: Lexus, BMW, Infiniti, Mercedes, Volvo … all nice cars, but let’s get real: Nobody is going to give Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls a car.

Check that. A long time ago, somebody actually did give Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls a car.

God bless Mrs. Edith Alexander, may she rest in peace. As a kid growing up in Shadyside, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls were neighbors to the elderly Mrs. Alexander and her husband, Tom. Both were distinguished, genteel and scholarly professors at Carnegie Mellon University. Mrs. Alexander was one of the first women to graduate from Harvard University, and she was the first woman dean of CMU’s Margaret Morrison College.

She had cocktails every afternoon at 4 p.m.

Eventually, she decided she decided it was time to start giving stuff, like her Harvard Classics Five Foot Shelf of Books, away, mostly to me.

And, in time, it no longer made sense for her to drive.

So she gave me her car.

It was a Plymouth Volare.

Have you finished laughing? It’s okay, go ahead.

Finished? All right, good.

The car was primer gray in color. It was 10 years old and had 5,000 miles on the odometer. And it had a red, perforated cardboard interior ceiling.

Upon taking ownership, I called my buddy Dale, tough guy and a smartass, too, and told him my neighbor gave me a car. I didn’t tell him what type or make.

I just said, “Hey, man, you’ll see soon enough. Be outside your place at 7:30 sharp. We’ll cruise around a bit.”

Later, Dale told his side of the story: “So, I’m sitting there, front step, smokin’ a joint, waiting. From down the street, off in the distance, I hear what sounds like singing. ‘Voh-lar-ayyy, ooh-oh-ohh-oh. Can-tar-ay-y-y, ohh-oh-ho-oh.’ I look up and halfway down the block I see this asshole leaning out the window of this butt-ugly, puke gray Volare drive up, stop, and say, “Well? Whaddya think??”

Fast forward. Last Christmas morning, I’m up at daylight and out for a morning walk with Myron and Mongo (my dogs, not Joey Porter’s). Myron, Mongo and I are fortunate to live on a nice street in a nice neighborhood. We circle the block and come up on the house next door and behind my place on the corner. Our neighbor’s home is a beautiful, gracious old house with a three-car garage and short driveway that will accommodate three vehicles, but only one car was sitting in the driveway — a sleek, brand new, silver-gray Lexus sedan … with an enormous red bow on its roof.

I couldn’t help but wonder what Mrs. Alexander would think.

And, somehow, I kept seeing that Lexus morph into a primer-gray Volare.

With a bow on top.

Postscript: Much later, the woman who became the future Mrs. Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls refused to ride in the Volare and didn’t want me to be seen in it, either. She really hated everything about the car, especially the red perforated ceiling. I kept threatening to soup up the Volare and turn it into a muscle car, but I eventually lost interest and got another vehicle. It seemed like too much trouble to sell the Volare, and I simply stopped driving it. It was parked on the street where we lived in Wilkinsburg and eventually it disappeared. I didn’t file a complaint with the police. Some time later, I saw some old cat driving it around as a jitney hack serving Wilkinsburg and Homewood. I hope it served him well.

One more thing: Other people share our wonderment at the whole genre of luxury-car-as-gift ads.

To Die For

In an article headlined, “Gem Sellers Launch Blitz Against Blood Diamond the trade publication Ad Age reports the World Diamond Council has launched a $15 million “public relations” campaign to quash open discussion negativity associated with the diamond trade.

According to Ad Age, “South Africa-based DeBeers, which markets more than 40% of the world's diamonds, has been front and center in the PR efforts.”

The new movie Blood Diamond opened a few days ago against the juxtaposition of a holiday-season torrent of incessant and mind-numbing advertising by exploitative retail jewelry chain stores like Zales, Kay Jewelers and the most insipid and embarrassed of them all, Jared, which was apparently named after the guy in the Subway commercial.

“The film makes its debut,” notes Ad Age, “during the heaviest selling season for the $60 billion-a-year worldwide diamond industry …Watchdogs think a powerful Hollywood film that's well-received could be the diamond business’ worst nightmare, causing a boycott of the gems that movies and TV shows for years have glamorized.”

As Ben Harper sang, “She’s got di-a-monds on-n the in-side.”

Many Happy Returns

Congratulations, Devin Hester, for your NFL-record SIXTH return for a touchdown this year. Man, that is a serious accomplishment. You were dynamite at the University of Miami, and you are even more so in your rookie season with the Chicago Bears.

Very impressive, indeed.

For the past two/three years, Devin Hester was the best and certainly the most highly visible kick returner in the college game. He dabbled at wide receiver, defensive back and running back, but the real value he brought to his team was as a breakaway kick returner.

In March and April 2006, however, most NFL scouts and draftniks summarily dismissed him as a “player without a position” and projected him as a fourth-round draft pick.

Kudos to the Bears for recognizing the value of an explosive return game and jumping up to take him in the second round. That surprised pretty much everybody.

Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls suspect the Steelers had their eye on the young Mr. Hester and wanted to draft him to replace Antwaan Randle-El as the primary kick returner … but we also suspect the Bears recognized this and acted aggressively to beat the Steelers to this draft pick.

This, we surmise, had a ripple effect on the Steelers draft tactics: After the Bears drafted Devin Hester, the Steelers panicked and drafted another player without a position: Willie Reid, the very raw wide receiver from Florida State, in the third round, primarily to return kicks.

Do we want to review how well that worked out? Didn’t think so.

So let’s get right to it.

For some reason, Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher, in the solipsist disquietude of consciousness, sat Willie Reid in the early games of the season in favor of Retardo Ricardo Coughley and Santonio Holmes, both of whom demonstrated an uncanny ability to fumble repeatedly.

When Willie Reid finally saw his first game action, he returned one punt for 11 yards and promptly sustained an injured foot that ended his season.

Congratulations to all.