Barefoot in Vegas: Plastic stones

“Yeah, the concrete heats up,” says J, my travel buddy for Las Vegas, when I mentioned that barefoot only works indoors or at night.

“It’s not concrete. It’s plastic,” I answer. The stones beneath my feet are plastic. Plastic heats up more than rock. When yo have bare feet, you can feel the composition of concrete.paradise

There’s some confusion between heaven and hell here in Vegas.

My travel partner isn’t with me. He said he’d come but he wasn’t able to spring for the flight. When J heard about the licensing show, he said it was a great opportunity. The show is free, I told him, and I’ll ask them to switch the one king room to a room with two queens. With J, that makes three.

Vegas is the perfect place for the Licensing Expo.

I came here to do good, to create a brand to empower girls. But that’s not what licensing about. Licensing is about sticking a picture on a shirt and charging five times as much as the same shirt with no picture on it. Licensing is about selling children rocks for lunch.

One of the first things I learn is that when given a choice between a banana and a rock with Scooby Doo stickers on it, children choose the rock to pack in their lunchbox. When given the choice between a chocolate cupcake with Elmo and the same cupcake with the American flag, children choose the Elmo cupcake and say they chose it because it’s chocolate.

Licensing is about forming subconscious ideas, important ideas like: Elmo tastes like chocolate but the American flag doesn’t.

Licensing and branding is a business where popularity talks and everything else walks. Originality is not only unnecessary, but considered risky. What about something for girls which is not in pastel colors? Nope. Pink and purple test well. What about something for boys that isn’t about competition, action and killing? Risky, very risky.

It’s not that these people don’t care. Honestly, I have never met such a great bunch of people at an industry event. People were genuinely caring, straightforward, helpful and decent to one another. I felt no snobbery from those who were successful, and got fabulous advice and help from everyone I spoke to.

But it’s all about the numbers.

Getting the numbers is about time, timeliness and money. The time, everyone seems to think, is 3-5 years, if your content is great, you consistently keep making great content, and your social media or marketing efforts are successful.

That’s a tall order for an artist.

I’m not an artist, but I have something my team and I have worked on for years, and it’s excellent, and with a budget, we could get to the right audience, we could improve what we’re doing, and we could build the audience.

It’s a choice in front of me. Work another 3 years. Find the right partner. Keep investing money and time in Gangly Sister. Keep believing that there are people who want great, non-princess, non-Barbie content for their children.

I’m not doing this for me. I never have been. 3 years of my life so far. Another 3 years of my life ahead of me. All risk.

I used to be an executive at a technology firm, and I could be one again.

All risk.

Just another choice for the Gladiator. It’s not which direction to go, it’s choosing how to get there.

The hardest part of being the Gladiator is starting over. I have something great, and I’m starting over. For the third, fourth, fifth time, who is counting? Licensing Expo was a new start for something I’ve been consistent and persistent about for what I thought was long enough.

It wasn’t long enough.

I could give up and let children worship rocks. I don’t think they were really going to eat them. They were going to go without a fruit so they could worship a rock.

Dreamerwithnopants

Look, girls can be dreamers! What? She’s wearing no pants? I have to keep looking at this to remind me why I can’t do anything but what I’m doing.

“We can all say we’d be richer if we’d made X, Y, or Z decision,” says my business partner. “For you it was never about the money, or even finding a market and serving the need. It’s about your mission.”

I am fortunate enough to have the luxury of not just being a dreamer, but of being an achiever, of being persistent, of having the time, the passion, and, more than anything, the resilience to pursue what I believe in.

 

 

(If you’re looking for better role models for your girls, ones who wear pants, take a look at Gangly Sister. Get the comics. Join the mailing list. Tell people about it. Prove that there’s a market, so we can change the world together. And so I can eat and pay rent. I’m into that kind of thing.)

J disappears one evening and doesn’t come back all night. J is one of the most responsible people I know. A married, decent guy who works at a law firm, someone who has helped me get my finances in order, someone who texts if he’s so much as 3 minutes late. When I finally find him, Vegas has gotten him, the tables, one too many drinks, nothing serious, something that hasn’t happened to him in over a decade.

Vegas. It can get to anyone.

The perfect place for the Licensing Expo. 15,000 decent, hardworking people who truly care and are as brainwashed as you are. Value is all about perception. That’s what they taught me when I got a big-name MBA, and you know what that costs these days.

Plastic cobblestone and a fake piano bar in New York, New York. There aren’t any cobblestones in New York anymore, at least nowhere I know of. I’ll tell you all about that next week.PlasticStones.jpg

 

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First blog post: Jerusalem

Here is my country, my nationality. You think: it is as solid as the Western Wall. In fact, it is as solid the Berlin Wall.

It all starts in Jerusalem.WallNotesToes.jpg

Those are my feet at the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall, where for thousands of years women come to weep, apparently at the destruction of the Temple of Herod, and before that the Temple of Solomon.

The year I came to Israel, 1990, there was a stoning, when people at the Dome of the Rock, threw stones over the Wall at the people praying here. I thought “nothing is sacred”. I was wrong about that because I didn’t understand that sacredness is an internal thing, not an external thing. Sacredness doesn’t reside in the thing or the action, but in the way of being of the human. Eaten properly, a raisin can be sacred.

I get a bus to Jerusalem.

This might be the first time since then that I’ve written a note to put in the wall, maybe the second. The notes in the walls are people’s wishes. I am embarking on a journey, and I don’t know where it will lead me, and the first thing I did was leave a note to God.

NoteToGodcropped

I cut out the name of my travel partner, because this is my blog, not his. I don’t know what I will say in the blog, so the least I can do is grant him the privilege of remaining semi-anonymous.

My Travel Partner doesn’t travel with me physically most of the time, but we travel together in spirit. For the blog, I’ll just call him Trav. It sounds like it could be short for something, and it is. It’s short for Travel Partner. We are all on a journey, and the journey is lighter with a partner.

I have a line of gratitude. A line for my children. A line for everyone else I love and 3 lines for Trav.

You can try to mask love but it leaves tracks.

The journey of the Barefoot Gladiator isn’t going to have many masks, and you are reading the first entry in the tracks I am leaving.

Bare feet in the city of Jerusalem. I approached as I always do, from the Jaffa Gate, and from before the ramparts all the way through to the Western Wall, the only old stones were the ones directly inside the Jaffa Gate. All the rest were new stones, new stones in Jerusalem. In a few  parts of the Christian Quarter they had the old stones, huge stones, not anything like the ones that replaced them. The oldest stones I stepped on were in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Old stones are worn smooth or cracked deep or both, somehow.

I had wanted to take the walk through to the Damascus Gate, take the train back from there. It’s Ramadan. I was afraid to walk through the market, closed and quiet because nobody is eating in Ramadan. So instead, I went back through the Christian Quarter, finding nothing but tourist joints, so I didn’t eat. In the Muslim Quarter you can find real food, but not in the day during Ramadan.

That was another first. The first time I’ve walked in bare feet in the Old City of Jerusalem. The first time I felt too afraid to go into the Muslim Quarter. Something has shifted, not just in Jerusalem, in this country, something  has shifted in the world. There was a time when resolving the problems in Israel would have been major progress towards my mission, but now the problem has to be solved at a global level.

My mission in this world is to bring people together, to acculturate people that we are all one, and suddenly, I was afraid in a place where I’ve occasionally felt uncomfortable but never to afraid to walk down a particular street.

At the Wailing Wall, I said a prayer of gratitude for 26 years in the Holy Land. Israel has been a home for the Jews, on and off, for 5000 odd years. Mostly off. Mostly off, when you think about it. Recently someone said “So that’s it, you are finally back.” There is no finally. We are back for a time. Nobody knows how much time.

When you are alive, living in a country, you think, here I am in this country. This is my country, these are the borders, this is my passport, this is my language, this is how it will be for my children.

Here is my country, my nationality. You think: it is as solid as the Western Wall. In fact, it’s as solid the Berlin Wall. 

I have no end of gratitude for living in Israel at a time which was one of the best in our history so far. We became an OECD country. I worked in high-tech and had a very comfortable life. So comfortable, in fact, that I’ve saved enough money to allow me to pick everything up, give all of my furniture to someone in need, and go off to seek the next adventure. I can do that freely, because I have had such an amazing life, raised wonderfully independent children, maintained a great relationship with their father and with an astonishing collection of friends who I know will make sure everything is all right with them while I’m gone.

And, of course, there’s WhatsApp. And Skype. Distance isn’t what it used to be.

I weep with gratitude for a good half hour, hour, who knows? I have had such a good life there are no wishes for me, except that I might fulfill on what I’m here to do.

Dear Blessed Be He,
Gratitude for the start of a journey.
May I fulfill on the mission you have for me.
May my children be healthy and fulfilled.
May the people I love always have love in their lives.
May Trav find everything his heart desires. May he be fulfilled, strong, happy, and may he give his gifts to others. 

I put my note in the Wall. It’s in English. It will fall down with these other ones at my feet. God reads all the notes in all the languages no matter where you put them and if they fall or even if you forgot to put the note in at all. You can even fax or tweet in your notes now.

God reads all of the notes.

But God doesn’t walk the path, because God has no body.

Only I can walk the path.

WalktheWalk