I was recently contacted by a Major International Marine Publication, and asked to write a series of articles to attract the younger set.
“â€¦you know the drill, Fatty,” its ancient, oh-so-British editor wheezed into the telephone, “something witty and topical â€¦ say, ‘Hauling Out with Brittany Spears’ or ‘Team Racing with Charlie Sheen’ or ‘Jennifer Aniston Breaks Up with her latest Sailor Boy in St. Barts â€¦'”
“â€¦something to appeal to the kiddies?” I queried.
“Exactly,” the editor said. “Put it in their vernacular. Mix in some quotes with Angelina Jolie and Brad-the-Boyfriend. Toss in the F-bomb now and again. Relate the whole spiel to Matt Damon and his African Water Rights campaign. Sprinkle with a few semi-nude pics of George Clooney for good measure. Mention zits. Or tits. Whatever! Make it MTV-ish.”
“â€¦so that the average college drop-out would, like, stop lavishing their precious money on Apple Products and, like, buy a 72 foot Oyster ketch for three mil?”
“Precisely,” sighed the editor. “Although I’d think a BendyToe 48 would make a slightly better ‘beginner’s boat’ to learn how to sail aboard. But you’ve got the right idea, Fatty. The average age of our subscriber base is now approaching three digits, while their collective IQ has dipped to around fifty. We must do something drastic or this once-flagship publication will die along with us. So, as distasteful as it may be, we’ve turned to you to take the pulse of our next generation of loyal subscribers!”
â€¦ which was flattering, of course. But it dawned on me just how crazy it was to ask a 59-year old to write for twenty-somethingsâ€”but then it dawned on me the old codger asking was probably so ancient that he lumped us all together, generation-wise. In addition, I loved the ‘loyal’ commentâ€”this from a man whose corporation was purchased more often than a Liverpool hooker.
However, I caught a faint whiff of condescension clinging to his request. So I decided that a little ‘facetime’ was in order with the editor. After all, it would be silly to go off half-cocked.
â€¦ I’ve always preferred to be fully-cocked, as most real men do.
But where was I? Ah, yes â€¦
I dashed to London and grabbed a taxi to their editorial offices. (The taxi fare was far more than I make per magazine featureâ€”but, hey, I’m an artist and thus used to such humiliation.)
On the transatlantic flightâ€”in between flirting with the stew and attempting to spot the nervous air marshalâ€”I studied the publication in question with laser-like attention. By that I mean that I completely ignored its editorial contentâ€”and analyzed the ads. Polydent had the back cover. Reader’s Digest had a half page. Viagra had a two-page spread. There were smaller ads in the back for ‘seagoing elevators and escalators,’ mar-less cane tips, waterproof Medical Alert collars, and Gor-tex eating bibs by Henry Lloyd.
Finally, I turned my attention to the editorial content. The first article which caught my eye was: Which Floating Wheel Chair is Right for You? The next article was aimed at the racing crowd, and explained the new Bermuda race class which allowed only ‘non-professional sailors with Alzheimer’s aboard. (Each participant would be required to wear a PFD with their children’s mobile phone numbers pinned to it.)
There was even an article pointing out the merits of bringing along a domestic slave to ‘pre-chew the galley fare’ for the truly laid-back sailor of advanced years.
And I had to smile at the full page color advertisement featuring Mister America’s Cup Himself, Dennis-the-Menace. It was pretty clever. There he was, opulently and coyly sprawled in the cockpit of Stars and Strips wearing an adult diaper, and the caption-blurb by his chubby little mouth asked the question: What Do You Wear for the America’s Cup?
His answer was, “Depends!”
Yes, it was immediately clear to me that they really weren’t pitching the publication strictly to teenagers.
One thing I love about the latest crop of these global magazines it that they aren’t shy. It is always WORLD this, and WORLD that. For instance, the popular Greed World. And there’s Tax Cheat Universe.
And my personal favorite: Yachting Billionairesâ€”Milky Way Edition.
It turns out the ‘editorial conference’ I’d demanded at International Publication (IPT) Towers was sparsely attended because many of the other editors already had, well, died. Some were merely embalmed. Still others were cryonically preserved.
The editor who had contacted me was named Richard Louis George. He was typical ‘old money’, and named after Richard the Lionhearted, Louis the XIV, and King Georgeâ€”all who were famous relative/scammers swinging from his Family Tree. Nor was it easy to sneak my hand through all the medical hoses running in and out of him (his office chair/medical bed allow him only a half-sitting posture), nor to lie and say briskly, “â€¦ looking good, Ritchie-babe!”
â€¦ yes, he was old. But, still, he retained a few of his marbles. Actually, I found his tales of being in combat as a young man (on the losing side of America’s Revolutionary war) rather amusing. But soon we got down to brass tacks.
“â€¦ what the hell do these young kids actually want?” he asked.
“Oh, that’s easy,” I said. “They want to get paid without working, laid without accepting responsibility, and not be bothered by the twisted morality of their elders.”
Richie appeared shocked at my glibness. “â€¦ How the hell do you know that?” he sputtered.
“â€¦ in essence, today’s kids want to become tomorrow’s adultsâ€”no matter how futile, dead-end, dreary, boring, and hopeless that route might be,” I said, and squinted wisely.
“â€¦ Hmmmm,” he said in a very distinguished, British way, “â€¦ sum it up for me Fat Boy? Put it in a nutshell. Be pithy. Throw me a sound-bite â€¦”
“You don’t have to be an analytic genius to notice that the fastest growing segment of the marine market is the Super-Mega-OMG-yachts. Thus, more and more members of the marine industry are frantically servicing fewer and fewer masters. Also there’s a Great Recession in the United Statesâ€”just a reminder, in case you were so busy counting money that you forgot. Generally-speaking, college kids who have never had a job can’t purchase the Maltese Falcon to week-end aboard, not unless their credit card limit is exceptionally high.Â Plus, while it might have been romantic for us flower-power children of the ’60s to quit our jobs and go ganja-sailing to the Caribbeanâ€”this option isn’t quite so romantic if you’re starving to death in a Philadelphia soup line.Â Yes it’s hard to ‘hunger for the open sea’ when you’re really hungering for a Big Mac and fries. Freedom is best enjoyed on a full belly. We’ve given this current generation Big Dreams. They want to soar.
Unfortunately, we’ve economically clipped their wings at the same time. We’ve selfishly spent their future enjoying our recent pastâ€”and now the frustrated, angry pigeons are coming home to roost.”
“How depressing,” the editor huffed. “That line ‘Freedom is best enjoyed on a full belly,’ hurt the most. Why can’t ordinary citizens realize that that is what they areâ€”ordinary! Why can’t they be content going to St. Barts, climbing up the hills above Gustavia, and looking down on us Chosen Few playing aboard our hyper-yachts? Why can’t they grasp that fact that the term ‘exclusivity’ means excluding them?”
I realized we were getting into some deep intellectual territory hereâ€”and warned myself not to blurt, “Heavy shit, mon!” as I would have done if we were conversing at, say, Woodstock or in a hot tub at Esalen.
“â€¦ I’m just pointing out that the iPad generation is a tad different than the Me-Me-Me-And-Who-the-Hell-Cares-About-the-Rest generation,” I said. “I mean, you and I might think of the free-wheeling corporate raiders who recently looted Wall Street as delightfully naughty roguesâ€”but they didn’t steal our future.”
“â€¦ can’t they simply let bygones be bygones,” he mused wryly. “I mean, all this anger about global warmingâ€”don’t they realize it was vastly cheaper for us well-heeded corporate types to do it that wayâ€”that we were, quite naturally, thinking only of our self-interests Ã la Ayn Rand? I mean, how exactly does having a planet capable of supporting life in the long term equate to short-term corporate equity? It doesn’t! Is it our fault we shook the money tree a bit too hard? We didn’t make these dog-eat-dog rules, we merely accepted them. It’s a jungle out there, Fatty! If we hadn’t of ripped off this generation, someone else world haveâ€¦”
The man had a point. Regardless, I decided I’d had enough. Just because I’d personally sold out years ago didn’t mean I had to linger at the funeral.
“I don’t think you need a marine writer,” I said, “as much as a therapist and undertaker, in that order. I’m tuning in, turning on, and dropping out. Bye!”
A few weeks later I read on the internet that IPT had purchased Lats and Slits, that new racing marine publication that my Buddy Bob was always claiming was so bitch’n. In any event, neither of the publications was in need of my pen and I was assured of maintaining my current level of piss-poor-prosperity unto the grave.
Yes, I am a true child of the 1960s. The only thing I enjoy more than quitting a jobâ€”is refusing one.
Cap’n Fatty and Carolyn are currently dumpster-diving behind the better seafood restaurants of the French Riviera.
Cap’n Fatty Goodlander lives aboard Wild Card with his wife Carolyn and cruises throughout the world. He is the author of Chasing the Horizon by American Paradise Publishing, Seadogs, Clowns and Gypsies, The Collected Fat, All At Sea Yarns and Red Sea Run. For details of Fatty’s books and more, visit fattygoodlander.com