Friday, 6:55 p.m.
Whether it's sooner or later, I do hope they say the same about me. Thanks to my pal Pat McGuire, who still sends postcards.
Friday, 4:23 p.m.
We had Steinbeck wisdom here last week.
This week, my pal Tony shared the Facebook post of a writer I don't know, who quoted Steinbeck again.
It is really incredible how little attention I have paid to what's being said at the White House over the last couple of weeks, so focused have I been on what CEOs and other leaders are saying—and so resistant to spending precious energy on Trumpfoolery.
But in the background, something is happening inside me about that.
Just a terrible feeling is building—or should I say, growing heavy.
Friday, 4:09 p.m.
(I finally have a minute between conference calls.) Which are all awkward and horrible. Except, one good thing happened this week. For some completely insane reason, I called the host of one of these calls "Jennifer," when her name is actually Heather. I was immediately mortified and hotfaced—until I looked down and saw my "mute" light was blinking. I unmuted it and resumed with booming confidence, "Heather, I think that's a fine idea …"
Friday, 4:05 p.m.
My dad fought in World War II.
When he got back, his most frequent complaint about the period wasn't the fear of dying (which he almost did a few times lying under his jeep hiding from the screaming Stuka dive bombers on the Remagen Bridge).
It was having his life stolen from him—his best, young years—without even knowing when they'd let him out.
You were in that war "for the duration," he would repeat, 50 years later, still in astonished rage. "For the duration!"
I think I know that feeling a little better now.
And I'm sure my teenage daughter will never struggle to understand it.
Friday, 7:27 a.m.
On Medium today, I laud CEOs for having been remarkably rhetorically responsible during coronavirus:
For people familiar with the way CEOs normally communicate, most remarkable (and even unsettling) over the last month has been the humility shown by these chiefs. “None of us know how long this virus is going to last,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell on CNBC last month, after scratching the retailer’s financial guidance for the quarter. “It’s a very unique environment that none of us have seen before, and there is no playbook for how to react in this environment. We’re writing the script each and every day.”
CEOs don’t say, “I don’t know.”
But how long can these masters and commanders keep it up before they revert to form, and begin to to see a light at the end of the tunnel whether it’s there or not, and begin to send out news releases before they know whether it’s a train or not?
Thursday, 7:05 p.m.
Just received from my dear writer pal Paul Engleman, one of the deejays of my life.
So, David, as you know, because I forwarded you a text at 2:35 AM on Tuesday that Adam of FOW was gravely ill with COVID-19, you at first were gripped with worry that I was speaking of a friend of ours in New York, but came to realize that I meant Adam Schlesinger, whom we've seen in concert several times. You knew him mostly from Fountains of Wayne, but he was involved with all sorts of projects.
Adam, sadly, didn't make it. So I'm in mourning, that funky kind of mourning you have for someone you didn't know but who deeply touched you for some reason, and you thought you might someday bump into 'em and get to tell 'em yourself, in what you hoped would be a not-too-awkward exchange. And now you know for sure—that ain't gonna happen.
The band took their name from a goofy lawn ornament store in my hometown, next to a charbroil burger place where I used to go while cutting class my senior year of high school, 1971. Adam Schlesinger grew up not far from there, about 15 years behind me. He was from your generation, not mine. In 1997, when we were moving into a new house, I was on a marathon solo painting binge, and I binged on a cassette of their debut album, which a friend had given me. They clearly knew their North Jersey. For me, listening to that cassette, in an empty house in time-stands -still mode, was like a spiritual link between my past and future.
You invited me to pick a song to play (instead of Stacey's Mom), and explain why. I chose "Radio Bar"; here's why. It's from the last FOW album, and it's the power pop sound they're known for. Most of their songs are short stories with characters, but this one is set in a bar on Hudson Street where Adam and the other songwriter in the band, Chris Collingwood, used to hang out, 25 years ago, and where they wrote songs for that first album.
And you and I have both been to that bar! It's a place where you or I might've bumped into him the next time we're in New York. (By the way, when the fuck is that going to ever happen again?)
Hope you and your readers enjoy the song. Line to listen for: "They put our song in the jukebox/ it was a hit with the drunk jocks/even the guys with the dreadlocks/sang along at the Radio Bar."
Thursday, 5:50 p.m.
Woah, I totally just had a great thought. Wouldn't it be insanely great if there was a Seinfeld episode about coronavirus?
Get this—there is, and it's really, really good. This script, by my buddy and the PSA's resident writing coach, Mike Long. Cuz writers gonna write.
Thursday, 5:20 p.m.
Not 100% positive Mayor Lightfoot would have approved of our motorcycular jaunt up Sheridan Road, but I kept thinking of the line in Chariots of Fire, when the boy says, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure."
Thursday, 9:15 a.m.
Huge "crisis" cocktails in the morning. Watching this was almost as good as doing this.
Thursday, 7:56 a.m.
Researching what leaders are saying and how they're sounding for our daily newsletter, Executive Communication Report: Coronavirus, I discover that Stewart Butterfield, the CEO of Slack, needs more sleep and less cocaine. He spent most of his New York Magazine interview yesterday trying but failing to cover up his exhilaration about the online messaging program's business boom during coronavirus—"it’s funny, as a CEO, it’s like all this stuff that I’ve always wanted just magically started happening, and in circumstances that are supercharged” … "a lot of our graphs just have straight lines that go right up" … “I definitely don’t want to appear ghoulish but I also don’t want to be ghoulish. Hey, great. Global pandemic. Super for business. At the same time, I’m really conscious of our employees.”
Then he furrows his brow and begins to ramble:
… I’m really worried about our employees, about the community. I ordered some food from one of my favorite Mediterranean restaurants last night and the guy thanked me because they don’t normally do delivery, but they’re doing delivery now. The guy thanked me for the support, and it’s like every time I’ve ever driven past a mom-and-pop store or a restaurant that’s gone out of business, it’s always upsetting, because it’s someone’s life work and they’re probably bankrupt, it ruins them. And when you think about the cascade of that. Also people dying of a respiratory infection, that’s obviously a big deal. But the knock-on effect of this is going to be incredibly consequential and that’s definitely what’s top of the mind right now.
Wednesday, 6:22 p.m.
I had a phone conversation last night that's sticking with me. It was with a friend who's a corporate attorney for a huge organization with operations in various sectors all across this land. My pal finds himself in meetings at the highest levels, with people running all the divisions of this organization.
"It's restoring my faith in humanity," my friend said.
Yes, the business heads and the bean counters are biased toward keeping the operations humming—partly, because some of these operations keep crucial national supply chains moving.
And yes, the HR people and the safety people are erring on the side of early shutdowns (the lawyer too, as lawsuits stemming from COVID-19 exposure will undoubtedly be "the new asbestos" for corporations for years to come).
But by and large, my attorney friend said, he's never seen more high-level executives earnestly "really listening to each other," thoughtfully deliberating and mutually determined to come to the conclusion that allows them to "do the right thing."
Meanwhile, another conversation today—this one with an exec comms chief at a Fortune 100 corporation—shows me the emotional and intellectual limitations of the Masters of the Universe who run these companies. At the outset of the coronavirus crisis, it was amazing to see CEOs say the most un-CEO-like thing: Essentially, We don't know what is going to happen, we can't predict the future, we are reacting to events the best way we can.
It was hard enough for these can-do strategic-planners to take that vulnerable and uncertain stance for a week or two or three. It may be harder for them to maintain it for the next month. This exec comms chief I was corresponding with told me his CEO got way over his skis, describing to employees some dreamed-up several-part recovery process that had no known association with reality.
I get it.
You get it.
Anybody who has a 16-year-old who sometimes struggles to look you in the eye gets it. Anybody who sometimes struggles to look the mirror in the eye gets it.
You want to say it's going to be all right. You want to say when it's going to be all right. And you want to say how it's going to be all right. And—after almost a whole month of this panic, you still don't fuckin' have any idea.
The best you can do is discipline yourself, over and over, day after day—to listen to the people around you. To thoughtfully deliberate. And to try to do the right thing the best you can determine it, in the faith that clarity will one day come.
(This might be the hardest thing I've ever done.)
Wednesday, 10:10 a.m.
Finally, a little goddamned leadership around here.
Wednesday, 7:09 a.m.
Some sick April Fool's joke, in this morning's The New York Times: "Under the best-case scenario presented on Tuesday, more Americans will die from the coronavirus in the weeks and months to come than died in the Korean and Vietnam Wars combined."
Tuesday, 9:26 p.m.
Unfortunately we just got a note from some a fellow who won't be subscribing to our popular newsletter, Executive Communication Report: 1918 Spanish Flu:
Hello Mr. Murray,As I've concluded that Your Daily Report does not serve my interest, I do not intend to subscribe to it.Nor do I mean, with my indisposition, to disparage Your and Your colleagues' work in this regard.I trust You'll pardon me in my untimely reply as I'm struggling to keep up with my correspondence.Self-employed as a semi-retired actor AND copywriter, my imperative is the implementation of my short-term plan for managing my affairs commensurately with the impositions of this viral development.Your Daily Report, noteworthy AND praiseworthy as it is, doesn't fit my set of requirements for doing so.Thank You for Your inquiry; I appreciate Your alacrity AND diligence.Your Servant,
Tuesday, 10:11 a.m.
I'm sensing that we're starting to get to a dangerous stage of this siege where we're all starting to get on one another's nerves—not the people we're locked in with—everyone.
I'm getting tired of people who've been doing this during coronavirus, had it up to here with people who do that, and as far as people doing the other—I can't even.
And some of you motherfuckers have been on my nerves since long before the coronavirus, and you're finally showing your stripes.
It's a symptom of National Cabin Fever, and we can't give in to it.
For instance, I had to apologize to one of the people who inspired the item below, and rewrite the item in arrears, to make it fairer to its targets.
We're all we've got, people.
Monday, 4:05 p.m.
Am I the only one who's starting to get irritated with people who aren't on social media, and who need to have every update personally delivered to their front porch? Some of got tired of Bernie bros a few years ago, others hate the Trump humpers. Some are too smart for Facebook, others think Mark Zuckerberg is a shit. And some are simply too cool to be on Facebook. Fonzie, for instance, is not on Facebook.
I honor all those reasons to avoid Facebook and all other social media.
But many things are changing at this moment.
And one of them is, we're all trying to keep in touch with each other and let each other know we're being vigilant and root for John Prine together and entertain each other every once in awhile and make sure nobody slips under the waves.
For the next month or several, turn off the H.A.M. radio and get with the program.
Would it kill you?
Monday, 1:52 p.m.
Click to enlarge for readability this email about "a handheld CO2 launcher" that people might find handy soon, for some reason.
Monday, 1:11 p.m.
On March 3, I wrote here:
If Orbitz is going to leave the nation on hold for a month, it owes us to at least refresh its list of songs about flying and travel.
David Gray, "Sail Away with Me Honey"
Steve Miller Band, "Fly Like an Eagle"
Nora Jones, "Come Away With Me"
Tom Petty, "Learning to Fly"
Marc Cohn, "Walking in Memphis"
Orbitz still hasn't give us our money back, and still hasn't updated the fucking songs.
I have a suggestion. Dump 'em all, and just run this one over and over.
Monday, 12:42 p.m.
Just sent to the typesetter the latest issue of Vital Speeches. Ten speeches, all on coronavirus—heads of state of Ghana, China, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, South Africa, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States and South Korea. In our 86-year history—and I've read many issues from the years of World War II—I don't believe there's ever been a single issue of Vital Speeches all on one subject.
A lot of people have talked for a long time about something that could unite the world in a common battle against a common enemy. If coronavirus isn't that thing, it'll do until that thing gets here. We'll see how it goes.
Monday, 11:17 a.m.
Sundays are so bad during this thing that in some ways, Mondays feel like Fridays.
Monday, 8:28 a.m.
Posted over the weekend as a public service.