My Almost Arkansas Commute


‘How I narrowly escaped working at WalMart’

It’s hot here. So hot my brain is mush and my funnybone has rickets. I’m so filled with Summertime Lassitude that I tried to republish a post from a couple of summers ago called “Who Wants To Go On A WalMart Run?”

It’s a zillion degrees out. So glad I just finished this sweater

This is the first time I’ve tried to do a sort of “rerun,” and, since it didn’t work and I hate to disappoint, I’m gonna compromise. Instead of dreaming up an entirely new story, I’ll tell you another one about WalMart.

This story is about how I almost went to work for them. No, not as a WalMart Greeter — though I am of a similar age as most Greeters, and would probably enjoy earning a bit of pin money smiling at people and saying “Hello, welcome to WalMart” and pointing out where the giant tubs of Goldfish can be found.

No, once upon a time I came this close to interviewing for the job of WalMart Corporate Advertising Director. 

Something I would have missed had I become the Ad Director for WalMart: the Ken & Barbie House

I happened to be working as a Group Creative Director for a pretty cool New York Ad Agency called DDB. (In the Golden Olden Ad Days it was called Doyle Dane Bernbach; this being the nineties, there was a craze for initials. Even Ogilvy & Mather was referred to by some — not me — as “O&M.”)

It was a good job — not a great job — but good. I made pretty good money and worked with pretty good people. Not great, like Ogilvy People, but not bad, not bad. I remember that there were an inordinate number of people named “Mike.” There were so many Mikes that one night some wag went around and replaced all the nameplates with “Mike.” I was “Mike Whitmore.”

This was pretty clever, but if you are accustomed to Ogilvy Clever — see “My Head Feels Funny” or “Harvey and the Grilled Half Goat Head” for exquisitely clever examples — the Mike Thing was, well, okay clever.

So I’m in my office — very nice; it even had a small refrigerator — when I get a phone call on an outside line. Thinking it might be Dude Man — remember, there were no cellphones then — I picked up.

It was a headhunter. Which is what we called recruiters. I really wanted to get whatever I was working on done so that I could head home to his Dudeness and The Child, and I didn’t really want to hear a headhunter pitch, so I tried to cut it short: “Thanks for calling, but…”

“But wait — this is a terrific job,” says Ms. Headhunter. “It’s one of the nation’s biggest companies, and you’d be running their whole advertising department.”

“I’m really not all that interested in working on the client side,” I answered reasonably. (Back then, no one wanted to work on the client side. You got to boss the Agency around, but you didn’t get to think up cool ads yourself. It’s kind of like being the conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, when what you really want to do is sing.

Then Ms. Headhunter goes on to say that the company is WalMart. “Aren’t they based in, like, Arkansas?” I ask her. “I mean, who wants to live in Arkansas?”

“Bentonville is actually very nice,” she says. “You can own a mansion. For peanuts.” “Yes, but you have to live in a mansion in Arkansas,” I answer, visions of Bill and Hillary’s Victorian swagged-velvet-drape-swathed White House dancing in my snobby Manhattanite brain.

“No thanks,” I said. “But thank you for thinking of me.”

“Wait! Don’t you want to know how much it pays?”

“Okay. How much?”

“The salary alone is in the upper six figures. But once you add in the stock and the other perks, it comes to — around a million a year.”

Well. Even if I could picture myself living in Arkansas, and envision The Child adapting her ten-year-old self to Arkansas (Come to think of it, she’d probably love having a big ole Arkansonian yard) I couldn’t imagine how Dr. Dude could move his practice there.

Me, contemplating moving to Arkansas and working for WalMart

So I politely dismissed Ms. Headhunter after helpfully gave her a few names of Possible New Ad Directors for WalMart. Then I head home, where I proceed to regale Dude Man with the story about about the possible-but-impossible WalMart Gig.

The Dude practices for life in Arkansas

I’m chuckling over the part about scoring some velvet drapery — maybe for an interview outfit — when he interrupts. “How much did you say it paid?”

“Um, the package is around a million a year.”

“You wouldn’t have to move there,” he said. “You could work there during the week — and fly home for weekends.”

Could you leave this little fishface for weeks at a time? Even if you did get to be Ad Director at WalMart?

Amagansett, New York. June 2021


So far, so good


’Wise words from my mom, the Birthday Girl’

I just love birthday parties. Especially when they are somebody else’s. In my personal opinion, birthday parties are just absolutely the best. (Weddings are a close second — or, hey, maybe even a tie.) With both, you get to celebrate a happy event, see a ton of friends and relatives — then you get to eat cake and make a bubbly toast.

This particular birthday was my mother’s (gasp) 90th, and we got to eat cake twice — while making multiple bubbly toasts. The first time was on her real, actual birthday last Wednesday, October 9. (The way-cool picture at the top of this post featuring my Two Favorite Women in All the World is from that happy occasion.) And we got to do it all over again on the weekend at a big Open House we held for family and friends.

Zillions of friends and ka-jillions of relations prepare to eat mucho cake and sip major bubbly

In case you’re wondering, my mom won’t mind me giving away her age. Not this time, anyway. She used to quail at being asked, “How old are you?” She, like me, was brought up to consider this an incredibly rude question, but you’d be surprised how many people — people who do not work for the DMV or even the Social Security Administration — ask it.

My mom used to answer Rude Age-Asking People by counter-asking, “Why do you want to know?” Which worked. Sometimes. For tips and pointers my Mom taught me on how to handle awkward questions, see my story titled, (naturally) “Why do you want to know?”

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Who wants to go on a Walmart Run?


‘No, my hometown didn’t have a Costco’

When I was growing up Midcentury-Modern Style in the Midwest, my very small home town had a main street with a few stores (and several taverns) on it.

If you wanted to, say, buy a Christmas present for your mom (Evening in Paris was a popular choice), you’d take your allowance or your paper route money and go to the Dime Store. (Ours was a Ben Franklin, but we always called it the “Dime Store”.) Which was owned by a really crabby guy who totally didn’t like kids and would follow you around like you were going to shoplift. There really wasn’t any other option.

Then, sometime after I’d gone off to college, a Walmart came to town. It was out on the west end by the Dairy King (totally different from the Dairy Queen). A (gasp) Walmart.

My Personal Family. In the front yard of the house I grew up in — in my Walmart-welcoming home town

Did my town protest? Did they try to keep that Walmart out? No way. They welcomed it, big-time. I remember reading a Big Story about its Grand Opening in the local paper (which I subscribed to because I worked there during the summers.) And it was only a matter of time — and not much time, either — before everyone was shopping at this new Walmart.

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