Updated: Jan 24
We’re presenting our promotional marketing ideas for the TWINbiscuit Candy Bar. The crux of our concept is an under-the-wrapper instant win game with the theme, Find The Cookie Worth A Fortune. This is what I do. I work for an advertising agency in Chicago by the name of SwiftWorldWide. I am the Account Director on the CandyMoon account and I am seven hundred and thirty-seven miles away from home.
Our PowerPoint presentation has ended and we await feedback.
The Brand Manager for TWINbiscuit seated at the head of the table stares intently at my partner and me. His poker face prompts my associate to clear his throat, look over at me, then down at his shoes. I do not flinch. The execs in the room peruse the handouts dealt before them, waiting for the boss to tell them what to think.
That’s when I show all my cards.
“Ladies and gentlemen, as the PowerPoint clearly demonstrates, we offer turnkey services and a promotional concept that clearly achieves your brand’s objectives within the desired tactic, which we’re confident will generate brand awareness, incent trial, and increase repeat purchase with the target audience. All that, creatively wrapped up in the theme, Find The Cookie Worth A Fortune.”
This moment of confidence is interrupted by, “Turnkey services. Brand objectives. Awareness. Trial. Increase purchase.”
I wince, hoping my associate stops talking. ASAP.
Unfortunately, he adds, “Target? Bullseye! Find The Cookie.”
Finally, the Brand Manager speaks. He pontificates, “You two are the Lennon and McCartney of Brand Building Promotions.”
Play this compliment backwards and it says, I am dead.
“I am the walrus,” I say out loud in order to entertain the troops at the CandyMoon Corporation.
My partner, McCartney—yeah, you better believe I’m Lennon in this little game—adds, “Coo, Coo, Ka-Choo.”
I turn to him, disdain clearly advertised on my face. The lyric to the Beatles tune we’re referencing is, Goo, Goo, G’joob. Coo Coo Ka-Choo is Simon and Garfunkel. Mrs. Robinson.
Regardless, it works. The room giggles with delight. The big boss continues by telling us he is so delighted with our work, he is awarding SwiftWorldwide the entire annual TWINbiscuit account, not just the first quarter assignment we’re pitching today. We expected around seven hundred thousand in revenue but net two-point-eight million over the next fiscal year.
So, why do I feel so poor?
I woke up at 4:00 a.m. in order to catch a 6:30 a.m. flight to Newark in order to grab a car service for an hour-long drive to Califon, New Jersey, which is where the CandyMoon Corporation is located. I do all this in order to make a 10:30 a.m. meeting with the TWINbiscuit Brand Group. I gain seven hundred thirty-seven air miles, but lose a little bit more of me along the way.
Carpe Dead-End. Fact. I am a beaten man.
At O’Hare this morning, in a pre-grande-coffee-of-the-day condition, I noticed something, which ushered me toward my present state of emotional poverty.
Non-stop to California. Non-stop to Los Angeles. Non-stop to memories of the one that got away. A girl. The girl. The one I let go when she answered the call of the ocean.
The crux of the problem is an under-the-skin, unforgettable loss with the theme, Piece Together The Crumbled Cookies & WIN.
We were the Harry and Sally of Personal Romance Building Emotions. Play the relationship backwards and we’d still be together. Yeah, in the beginning it was bliss—but isn’t it always? Her name is Jane. I used to call her Weakness.
“Why do you call me Weakness?” she’d ask every time.
“Because you’re mine,” I would respond.
We did this often. It became our mantra. It was a foreplayful nickname game that elicited loving emotion long before we were ready to say, I love you.
Wish I hadn’t seen it.
Non-stop to my every regret.
Back in Califon, the clients are treating us to lunch. Problem is, their idea of a “good lunch” is ordering in from a “great sub shop around the corner” while we pound out the 12-month promotional plan for TWINbiscuit.
My roast beef sandwich arrives wrapped in wax paper riddled with Blimpie logos. Makes me feel sofa-king special.
We shake hands.
The day is finally over. Lennon and McCartney have left the building. The car service waiting outside of the CandyMoon Corporation whisks us back to the airport, albeit not without incident.
En route, McCartney yaps into his cell phone, boasting about the victorious day, about the three-hundred percent increase in billings, about wowing the Brand Group, about conquering CandyMoon, about absolutely nothing that interests me at this juncture. I half expect him to start spouting motivational movie quotes like, The things we do in life echo on in eternity.
He is beside himself. I am beside an idiot.
“Right. Right. Perfect. At the end of the day, I’m always reachable by cell. Late.” McCartney taps a fat thumb on the face of his phone.
I speak. “You know the lyric to that song is Goo, Goo, G’joob. Not Coo Coo Ka-Choo. Coo Coo Ka-Choo is Simon and Garfunkel. It’s Mrs. Robinson.”
“What? What’s your glitch?”
“The song. You got the lyric wrong.”
“Are you kidding?”
“Who cares? Two-point-eight-million, man. You know what that means? That’s a major coup. A major coup for us…”
He points to himself as he says, “Lennon,” and points to me with, “and McCartney.”
I’m about to correct him when his phone rings. Tap of that thumb and he's on stage again.
“Speak to me. Sir! Yes, sir,” he bellows, followed by an obnoxious laugh. “You heard right, Boss Man. The whole shebang. We bagged the elephant. Yes! A major coup for SwiftWorldwide. Major coup.” He grins into his phone, “A major Coup Coup Ka-Choo.”
I react, snatch the cell phone from McCartney and toss it out the window.
McCartney’s empty-handed shock bleeds into, “That did not just happen. I was talking to Prescott. He’s V.P.”
May have overreacted there. But gazing out the window, I don’t acknowledge him.
“That was a brand new Google Pixel 3. Snapdragon 845, dude. What’s your deal today? You’re acting like a complete dick.”
“Gimme your cell phone,” he barks.
I slowly reach into my pocket and produce a slightly outdated iPhone. I look at McCartney and, with a flick of the wrist, jettison my phone out the window.
McCartney does a cartoon head-crane to gawk out the back window. He huffs, puffs and then it all blows over. I somehow managed to shut him up and, amid the peace and quiet, I watch the world rush by until exhaustion takes over and I doze.
I dream. Jane. Twin biscuits. Annual revenue of happiness exceeds all expectations by three-hundred percent. Jane, naked, wrapped in wax paper riddled with Blimpie logos. My idea of a good lunch. I wake up at 4:30 a.m. in order to lean over and kiss the past on the forehead. Carpe Delight. She is the egg-woman, Goo, Goo, G’joob. We plan our future. Here Comes The Sun, Do-Da-Doo-Doo. We shake each other naked. Harry and Sally never left the building.
Non-stop to Chicago. I wish. My flight out of Newark is delayed. After sitting on the runway for forty minutes, we finally take off. As the plane steadily gains altitude, I realize my whole life has been experiencing delays. Inclement weather. Mechanical issues. Late incoming flight. Ground crew difficulties. Delay after delay.
The plane finally levels off at twenty-two thousand feet and drinks are served.
Epiphany. I am a corporate lemming.
At least I’m heading home.
O’Hare. This is where my ride began almost twelve hours ago. It looks and feels the same, except I’m anxious to trade my grande-coffee-of-the-day for a very large glass of red wine. Anxious, that is, until I see it. It moved. It’s at B-4 now. And suddenly it tastes better than any glass of wine could at this juncture.
Non-stop to Los Angeles.
Non-stop to nostalgia.
Non-stop to before.
Just then, McCartney announces his presence annoyingly.
“Look, we’re cool. Apology accepted. I can let it go. You’re welcome. Now, can we be civil enough to share a cab into the city?”
“I’m not going into the city,” I say, waxing nostalgic.
“But you’ll miss the big announcement,” he protests.
I put my briefcase down and step away.
“I’m not carrying that for you.”
“Leave it. I don’t need it anymore.”
“Fine,” McCartney says, picking up the case. “But you owe me.”
I take another step in what definitely feels like the right direction.
“Dude. Reconsider. Prescott’s called a company-wide meeting. Think about the accolades.”
“Don’t care to be there, whatsoever. Not going to be in tomorrow either. I’m calling in.”
“What? You sick?”
“Nope. I’m calling in well,” I say as we part, as I make a beeline to Gate B-4.
I approach the ticket agent, who is making final preparations for departure.
“Is there room on this flight?”
The agent glances up at me, her friendly-skies smile already in flight. “Yes, sir. Are you a ticketed passenger?”
“No. But I’d like to purchase a ticket. Non-stop to Los Angeles, please.”
Non-stop to my Weakness.
Someday, someone is going ask what impelled me to get on this plane and take this nostalgic trip. When that happens, I’ll quote A Day In The Life by the Beatles. Somebody spoke and I went into a dream.
Maybe it was distaste for my career. Maybe it was McCartney’s lust for the job. Or his cell phone habits. Might have been the Blimpie that sent me over the edge. Regardless, I’m flying westward at thirty-six thousand feet and I feel really good. Okay, maybe it has something to do with the two glasses of red wine I’ve been served. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the fact I’m doing something that matters to me. I’m not promoting candy bars today. I’m promoting me. And no matter what happens, this will be a compelling chapter in my life.
Check that. Definitely the wine.
Some people hate to fly. I find it very enjoyable, almost therapeutic. I sleep. I think. I remember. Jane.
The night we met, Jane and I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning talking about life and the world in general. We shared our thoughts, our dreams, and two bottles of champagne—the brand with the orange label. Sitting on her porch, under what few stars the Chicago skies allowed, our lips were getting acquainted.
After some time she sighed, “I could kiss you for hours.”
“Four, five hours, whatever it takes,” was my astute reply.
“Welcome to the land of artificial people and real dreams. Where the sun always shines and the stars are always out.”
My cab driver spouts this dialogue as I slide into his backseat.
I glare at him. “Save it. Do I look like a fucking tourist?”
“My bad. You look like one of those advertising pricks.”
We don’t say another word to each other the entire ride.
I don’t look like an ad exec. I’m not even wearing black today.
Thirty minutes later I’m at Jane’s doorstep, knocking in vain on her front door. I’m standing on a mat that reads welcome. However, when I look down, I only see we and me bookending my shoes.
Quite suddenly I feel uninvited. I feel stupid. I give up knocking and turn toward the ocean. The romantic adrenaline I carried from O’Hare, across one thousand seven hundred and forty-one air miles, the twenty-two miles in the cab, and the thirty-six anxious strides to Jane’s door is draining from my body.
Just then, I see a dog running on the beach. It’s Jane’s dog.
Then I spot Jane, sun-dressed and carrying her shoes. My lack of adrenaline is suddenly replaced with another kind of energy. My non-stop to nostalgia takes off in a major way.
That’s when I see Jane turn to speak to someone next to her. She’s walking with some guy.
I remain optimistic. “Maybe that’s her brother.”
They embrace, then kiss.
“So that’s how it is in your family.” I try to humor myself. It doesn’t work. My non-stop to nostalgia has collided with reality. A bitter reality. A harsh reality.
For some reason I decide to hide. Let’s call it pride. I duck down the alley adjacent to Jane’s apartment. Some crazy woman wearing tin foil on her head as she watches TV glances in my direction. Without acknowledging me, she looks away.
I hear voices getting closer. I hear the couple enter the apartment. Whew.
Suddenly Payton runs right up to me. I crouch to rub his head.
“Hey, Sweetness,” I whisper. He remembers me. He laps at my hand and we get reacquainted until Jane calls out, “Sweetness. Come on, boy. Let’s go.”
Payton looks me in the eye, turns, and moseys away from me, toward his master.
The door slams shut and I curse my stupidity.
“Fuck am I doing here?”
Harry and Sally live in separate worlds.
'You can’t be close to the ocean without putting your feet into the water.'
A friend of mine often says this, so I comply. I stop at a Pink Dot and buy myself a bottle of good time—the one with the orange label, for old times sake. En route to the register, I grab a pair of flip-flops from a rack. Impulse purchase. As the cashier rings me up, I take note of a point-of-purchase display. It’s stocked with TWINbiscuit candy bars, each one bearing a brightly-colored blurb that reads, Be A Smart Cookie & WIN!
Things we do in life echo on in eternity. Ugh.
I grab my purchases, exit the store and head to the beach. I ditch my shoes, watch them fill with sand and salt water as I roll up my pants and step into the ocean. The day’s events wash over me as the champagne pours down my throat.
I am the walrus.
The fool on the hill.
This is my long and winding road.
Flashback. Jane and I are sitting on a flight of stairs, amidst hundreds of books. Jane loves to read more than any other person I know and we’re relocating her library. We are moving her into a new apartment. We have been moving all day. One of the last boxes, this massive, over-packed box of books makes it halfway up four flights of stairs, before the bottom gives out. Sitting among the wreckage, faced with the task of cleaning it all up, I am about to blow a gasket. However, Jane giggles and her giddiness is so contagious, I too begin to laugh.
“That’s what I love about Jane. Inside of this smart and sophisticated woman is this little girl, full of wonder and awe. This little girl that peaks out from big brown eyes and takes in the world like she’s always taking it in for the first time. This little girl that lights up a room and continuously dances to life’s endless song. It’s quite breathtaking. As is she.”
“Look, bro, love is fire. Whether it’s gonna warm your heart or burn your life down, you just never can tell.”
I snap out of it. I’m on the beach, sitting in front of a small fire, clutching my bottle to my chest.
“Wait. What?” I say to the bum sitting next to me.
“Never you mind, filibuster hymen. Ross Perot on the cover of Time. Get-get jiggy with it,” he mumbles, clutching his own bottle as he stirs the flames.
Happy hour is over. My bottle is empty and the tide is coming in.
I’m drunk. I do foolish things.
Jane answers her door on the second knock and doesn’t seem too surprised to see me. Then again, Jane never likes to appear off guard.
I try not to slur my words. I try, but fail.
“I needed to see you, Weakness.”
She responds, “Why?”
“Because you’re mine,” I announce quickly, suddenly feeling proud of myself.
Jane laughs. “You’re drunk. And I didn’t say what you think I said. I asked why you thought you needed to see me.”
“Well,” Jane says, matter-of-fact. “There’s that familiar silence. The soundtrack of us. Why are you here?”
She sighs. She doesn’t think I’m going to respond. See, the crux of our relationship crumbled under a lack of communication. I always had trouble expressing myself. And the great communicator strikes again.
I stare at my flip-flops, loss for words.
Standing on a mat that invites me in, I wear out my welcome.
“Look, I have company. I have to go,” Jane whispers as she moves to shut the door.
Flight 643 to Chicago. The red-eye. I have no luggage, but carry tons of baggage. My seat is in the upright position. Seat belts fastened. Tray table stored. I am the nostalgic tourist and I am going home.
At thirty-eight thousand feet, I replay the events that just transpired.
Standing on Jane’s doorstep, perched on that welcome mat, I did find the words. I put out my hand, stopped the door from shutting, and said my peace.
Non-stop, I told her how I found my way to her doorstep. I told her why I came to see her. I told her, there is this little girl inside of you I fell in love with, this little girl that would take my hand and show me the awe in the world. She dances through life. I came here tonight to see that girl, to grab her hand. Needed to ask her if she ever thinks about me. Wanted to ask her…may I have this dance?
Jane shut her eyes for a moment, then opened them. A glimmer of emotion, quelled.
“Thank you. For that. But I was there. Then. Now I’m here.” Tenaciously wiping away a tear, she continued. “I can’t just go back. You can’t show up on my doorstep and expect me to be where you are. It doesn’t work that way.”
I watched as the resolute girl gave way to emotion.
“I can’t. I’m just not there. Now. I think you need to let go.”
And we left it at that.
Chicago. The red-eye arrives, ahead of schedule. Dazed and not amused, I watch as my fellow passengers spring from their seats in a rush to deplane.
O’Hare. A moving sidewalk. A disheveled mess—untucked, no tie, flip-flops, salt water stained slacks. Looking more like a castaway than a frequent flyer, I navigate the current of business travelers moving in the opposite direction.
Finally, I exit the terminal and hail a cab.
Home. Feels good to enter my apartment. I turn on my CD player. Nick Drake fills the morning air. I turn on the coffee maker and percolate myself some energy. It is 6:00 a.m., Friday. The day belongs to me. Carpe Diem.
Just then, the phone rings. It’s Jane.
“Hey. You made it back. I just wanted to make sure you made it home.”
“Yeah. Made it.”
“I tried your cell but you didn’t answer.”
“My cell. Yeah. I kind of lost it on my business trip.” I pause, do the time math. “Wait. Isn’t it like four there?”
“Unfortunately. Some things never change.”
“You know, you could have lied. Said it was thoughts of me keeping you awake.”
Jane laughs an infectious laugh and suddenly I feel closer to her than when I was standing on her doorstep. Guess I give good phone.
We talk for two hours. I tell her all about my trip—about the meeting, TWINbiscuits, Lennon & McCartney, the Blimpie, jettisoned cell phones, Gate B-4, and the fact Payton remembered me.
“You know what’s funny?” she says.
“You’re in California, we spend two minutes together. Apart, we talk non-stop for hours.”
“Four, five hours. Whatever it takes,” I whisper.
Silence. On her end this time.
I am the spin-doctor of our relationship’s finest moments. And the honesty of her silence pulls us closer than we have been in years. See, I just played the relationship backwards, and it sounds like one of our favorite songs. One we could have danced to, endlessly through life. If. Only if.
That’s when I show all my cards. “Look...things fall apart. But that doesn’t mean they’re no longer beautiful.”
She exhales. "I know. I know. And thank you. For that."
I don’t expect her to say anything else, but she softly adds, “I’ll always be your Weakness.”
And we leave it at that.
An unfinished story.
An incomplete film.
An endless song.
Maybe a nostalgic tour another day.