Writer, Editor, Salesman, Flack

I’m going to be 70 on Saturday. Appropriate age to start my first business.

I was thinking of opening a ski resort in Kazakhstan or maybe running a cattle ranch in Montana.

But figured I better stick to something that involved stringing sentences together and avoided the outdoors in wintertime.

Anyway, as of today, the website is up and the news release is out.

The business is called Ken Becker, Writer/Editor, since that’s who I am and what it says at the top of the site.

I couldn’t come up with a catchier name, though I considered Ken Becker: Tinker/Tailor/Soldier/Sailor, and Ken Becker: Rich Man/Poor Man/Beggar Man/Thief.

And, regrettably, my two top choices – Exxon Mobil and Deutsche Bank – were already taken.

For those who resisted the temptation to click into the link above – in my incarnation as an entrepreneur I enthusiastically encourage the diversion – the essence of the business is what I call Life Stories.

I interview someone who has already lived a fairly full life and write a newspaper/magazine-style profile to pass on to family and preserve for succeeding generations.

I’ve done this before – for my father and my mother-in-law, Edith.

I learned a lot about them I never knew. And so did the rest of our families.

For example, I never knew the details of my dad’s disappointment in attending a mass tryout for the Giants at the Polo Grounds in the summer of ’41.

The young men were arbitrarily divided into groups of 10 or 15 and assembled at the right field foul pole. Each group was directed to dash to the left field foul pole. When they arrived, most – Red included – were told go home.

“They never even saw me pitch,” he’d tell me, more than 40 years later. “I was fast, I felt sharp, and they never even saw me pitch.”

And Linda never knew about her parents’ secret wedding.

Edith and Walter – he had converted to Catholicism – were married on September 5, 1936. Since married women were not allowed to work in the bank, they wed in a secret ceremony in the priest’s house at Assumption Roman Catholic Church.

“My mother was the only one who knew,” Edith said. “Even his parents didn’t know.”

As it inevitably turned out, I read excerpts of these stories at my father’s funeral in 1995 and at Edith’s memorial service in 2009.

Which brings me to a word my business adviser has insisted I shun – obituary.

These stories are in many ways advance obits for those of us who probably won’t rate a column or three in a major newspaper, whose lives will be summed up by a funeral director listing survivors.

(At my grandmother’s funeral, I recall, the rent-a-rabbi had to be briefed on who she was.)

Since you are reading this on my blog, and many of you are journalists, I know what you’re thinking: Why would I pay Becker to write about my mother or father, or grandmother or grandfather, since I can do it myself?

First, you’ll probably never get around to it. Also, if you do, I plan to hunt you down for a commission on the idea. There is also the possibility I’d do a better job.

And, while pitching to you, my marketing adviser says I have to figure out who you are, find my key demographic.

Are you millennials who will shell out some dough to learn about their grandparents and have a story to pass on to your kids?

Are you young boomers who want a profile of a parent?

Or old boomers and beyond, like me and my elders, who want to seal their legacy – that word is everywhere these days – in 1,500 words of priceless prose?

In any case, I’m hoping you will see the value of my work and either commission a life story, recommend me to family and friends, or give me some free publicity – spread the word.

Ken Becker, Salesman/Flack

Not going to take this anymore

I have already canceled my subscription to the Washington Post.

The New York Times is next on my hit list.

I stopped watching the news networks right after the doofus FBI director opened his yap and the top story became: There are more Clinton emails. We don’t know what is in them, but we’re going to talk about them for days anyway.

I broke my fast, sort of, on Monday night, with a couple of shows that promised satire to put a bow on the end of the world as we know it.

First, there was Samantha Bee, the Canadian export who has been pinning the tail on the jackass most consistently these past few months.

In her opening monologue was this: “Evidently, a critical mass of Americans find a normal, center-left policy nerd less likable than a vindictive, pussy-grabbing hate-Zamboni who jokes about killing his enemies.”

Q: Why don’t you like Hillary Clinton?

A: I don’t know. I just don’t like her.

Then, I watched a Saturday Night Live roundup of its election skits, introduced by Tom Brokaw, the sage from South Dakota, who said Americans had been assaulted with language that left them wailing, “Oh, my god, did he – did she? – say what I just heard?”

She? What the hell did she say?

Maybe one of Trump’s conspiracy theories is true – the media were plotting all along for the bonanza of having a certifiable lunatic in the White House.

I’d planned to watch election night – I’d gone the distance every time since Kennedy-Nixon.

So, Tuesday, at 8 p.m., I first sample CNN, have my fill of Wolf’s giddy hyperbole in about a minute, switch to MSNBC, chuckle at Brian Williams playing point guard for the junior varsity, and attempt to settle in with Lester Holt & Co. on NBC.

At 8:59 p.m., my daughter Lacey, down the road in Burlington, sends me a text: “Do you think he’ll win?”

“No. But still uneasy. Should have been a joke. It’s not.”

It’s early, but the chips aren’t falling for Clinton. Florida is looking funky again. Chuck Todd and Brokaw on NBC are cracking jokes about Bush v. Gore.

At 10:14 p.m., my daughter Kate phones from Tucson. “I’m nervous,” she says.

“Never underestimate the stupidity of the American people,” I reply.

She passes on my comment, with an uneasy laugh, to the party guests in her house.

“I’m going to watch a movie,” I say.

I switch from the election coverage to Tarantino’s latest indulgence, The Hateful Eight.

Let the bloodbath begin.

When Samuel L. shoots Bruce Dern, my computer flashes Trump wins Florida.

And so it goes.

Kurt Russell projectile vomits blood – Trump takes Ohio.

Channing Tatum gets his head blown off – Trump captures North Carolina.

By the time all the bad hombres are dead or dying, the headline is: Trump on the verge of an upset.

Upset? Who says?

Not exactly Clay over Liston. Villanova over Georgetown.

Did someone forget to poll the dimwits, patsies, incorrigibles, paranoids, nihilists, bigots and apocalypse enthusiasts?

Upset or death wish?

After midnight, it’s clear Trump is going to win.

Why am I laughing?

Anxious to see the future, I retreat to Mad Men on Netflix. Don is sleeping with his daughter’s teacher.

At 1:09 a.m., Kate sends a text: “I cannot believe it!”

I reply: “I’ve already canceled my Washington Post subscription. Will do the same with the New York Times. May block all news channels on my TV. Not kidding. I never want to see that man’s name in print again, see his face again.”

At 2:35 a.m., the AP calls the election – Trump Triumphs flashes on my computer screen.

At 2:40 a.m., Kate texts: “NPR fooled me.”

“They’re the fools.”

Some folks at NPR probably voted for Bernie. Or Adlai Stevenson.

And let’s have a big hand for John Kasich, who wrote in John McCain – Why not Dewey? Or Wendell Willkie? – and all the other Never-Trump fraudsters in the GOP.

On Wednesday, I start the day as I always do, at the computer in my home office.

There’s a text from daughter Jodie, in Toronto, a cartoon of a young angel with a tablet, talking to god. “The system has crashed, even the atheists are praying,” the caption reads.

There are more doomsday cartoons and memes in my email, from my cousin Ylain in Manhattan and Pal Hal in Vancouver.

Last time I talked to Ylain, she told me, “I don’t know anyone voting for Trump.”

Out of habit, I click into the Times, remember all the appalling coverage of the campaign, click out without reading a single story, and realize I’ll have to return to the site to cancel my subscription.

(Just after Trump announced he was running , I warned that the Times and the rest were playing with poison.)

It’s Thursday, and I’ve yet to read a story about the election, watch a second of TV news, see a single clip of Trump in victory or Clinton in defeat.

I return to Season 3 of Mad Men. It’s 1963.

The only black people are maids and elevator operators. The wealthy white people are drinking and smoking and screwing around.

JFK is shot.

Make America great again.