A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

Please allow me to introduce you to Bernard Olcott, 1918-2006, a man who led a legendary and iconoclastic American life.

Welcome to my blog.  My goal is to provide you with stories from times past by which you might catch glimpses of yourself, or of someone you know intimately. Bernard Olcott touched the world, from Japan to England to Egypt to Kansas to New Jersey. Maybe you know some of these places, too.

Every Thursday afternoon, I’ll present you with a new story, some new adventure or insight, dusted with more than just a little modern context and quirky cultural references. Dad loved screwball humor; although he took himself seriously as an attorney, he wouldn’t stop laughing if you called him an ‘ambulance chaser.’  You see, this is the point: we can’t pick our parents, but we sure as hell can cherry pick their best qualities. And that, my friends, is what will set you free.

HOW TO DEAL WITH A PARENT OR BOSS SUFFERING FROM DEMENTIA

Dementia is a dreary affair or topic in life, much less a blog.

My readers will appreciate that I have tried to dress it up by adding all kind of stories about nostalgic New York, travelogues on Kansas, Japan, the Bahamas, and Lithuania, multiple marriages, the America’s Cup, and business school write-ups of niche industries.

Kudzu-eating goats even pitched in to help me out on my last entry, THE FINEST ESCAPE, PART 2.

But dementia remains the overriding issue that I have tried to address in my writings; and I have sought to do so as humanely as possible. It afflicted my Father, after all. I make a point out of capitalizing the words “Father” and “Dad” out of respect for him personally, for the role he played in my life, and for the enormous personal success he achieved in life, surmounting so many challenges.

Few, very few people ever scale the heights my Father did.

Yet my Dad succumbed to a crippling illness over the course of many years.  At the outset, I reiterate that I had neither special expertise nor basic knowledge of this affliction or of elder-care issues in general. Truthfully, I learned the hard way by surviving a family business, albeit with my insanity intact.

My ‘normal’ was my Dad’s successful international company, the standard by which I judged the world and work environments around me.

THE FINEST ESCAPE, PART 2

I guess solutions to problems make themselves known in the strangest and the most unexpected of circumstances. Like flying mouses.

Take my Dad, for example (or Please!). He had made his greatest escape from his under-privileged origins as a Merchant Marine.  Sailor that he was, though, he was not able to elude the imprisonment of old age infirmities. In later life, as my prison warden, I, too, was obligated to escape. I had no choice in the matter but to throw the chair through the office window and climb out.

To put it simply, he was killing me!

Lebertech-Your-Killing-Me.jpg

The PANOPLY OF SWAGGER series charted both my Dad’s incremental decline and my concomitant exits from Olcott International.  In the initial installment, I recounted how Dad started neglecting his beautiful business in the slightest of ways. By shorting one of his top salesmen of his commission. Maybe it was a one-off? Ultimately, it wasn’t. The same thing happened with others, like Bob Gerhardt, in the harshest of ways.

In the second, I regaled my readers with the beginnings of a horned parade of spurious investment ideas beating a path to my Dad’s doorstep. It all started innocuously enough. A table game with Huntington Hartford. Oil drilling in Kansas. But it didn’t stop there. It accelerated whereby Dad got churned for a million by a stockbroker. He had the good sense to sue for his money back. But when he prevailed in court, he turned around and reinvested with the very same advisor!

Tail chasing eats up valuable time.

In the third part, I tried in vain to get my Dad’s eye back on the eight ball.  Instead, I was reduced to pleading in his kangaroo court, where the appellate judge was either the cleaning lady or my drug-addicted colleague. By hook or by crook, I did everything I could to draw his attention to where it should have been.

But it was no use.  Ever have days like that?

THE FINEST ESCAPE, PART 1

Yup, this is a repeat. But it sets the stage for my new story THE FINEST ESCAPE, PART 2 due next week.

The Bernard Olcott Story started off 2016 with a rewrite of my post “THE LOST WEEKEND” focusing on the Academy Award (and Cannes!) winning movie of the same name from 1946.  That post promised the following stories to come:

• the biggest movie of 1946 (THE LOST WEEKEND),
• the 3rd Avenue El (including an art house film),
• old style New Yorkers interacting in flavorful accents,
• a valuable lesson at Cooper Union
• a mysterious death in 1943 with what little facts are available, and
• a color-filled present with a shared activity across time.

All have been delivered, except for the last topic.  I did leave the 1940s to take you, the dear reader, on a color-filled ride 40 years later to Lithuania in 1985.  I framed my trip in terms of a Boomerang where I realized that my journey, as an effort to strengthen family ties, may have inadvertently reminded my Dad of his disadvantaged youth.  Both in terms of society – his immigrant household subject to prejudice – and family – where his brother was favored in the household.

But wait!  There’s more to that technicolor present!  Today’s post will wrap up both the Boomerang and 1940s themes with the following conclusion: my Dad escaped his unhappy situation 4 ways:

1. Becoming a sailor on the Merchant Marines and shipping off to Europe
2. Flying the coop to Cooper Union
3. Becoming a Technology Consultant
4. By engaging in a mystery activity (identified below), one that he and I both share.

THE NEW BUSINESS OF PATENT ANNUITIES

Above: Lincoln’s Inn as seen from Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London.

Up for today is my Harvard Business School (“the charm school on the Charles”) case study about the industry my Dad created — international patent renewals!

As the 1960s progressed, Dad’s new business quickly subsumed his “normal” patent practice. He did keep working for some select inventors who intrigued him but spent most of his time promoting his new renewal business as a modern, computerized clerical operation.

Corporate patent owners were delighted and sought him out.  On the other hand, foreign patent law firms worldwide were scandalized! The renewal work for them was heretofore easy money; it was a simple annual reminder operation that brought in huge fees for little work. They accused Dad of skimming the cream off their businesses. Many fought back, in some cases by petitioning their local patent offices NOT to accept such payment schedules sent in from foreign offices in New York. However, some savvy patent law offices quietly became clients, preferring to take advantage of the lower fees and passing them along to their clients to curry favor.

THE CALL (AKA FLYING MOUSE STORY)

So, when my cell phone lit up, with an unknown Caller ID number, I knew it had to be in response to my ad in The New York Times as tech talent available for contract work. “Your hands on the keyboard.”

Who was it?

Boutros Boutros Ghali (Secretary General of the United Nations at the time)? No, it wasn’t. No, it wasn’t.

Edward Olcott calling collect for Bernard Olcott? Not that time.

My Dad? He would call me every once in a while when he had need of me.

How about Harvey Burgermeister? You didn’t think of that name, did ya?

Harv was a pudgy postal worker in Queens, NY – and he will go down in history as my very first customer. In that first phone call, he explained that he wanted to buy a personal computer for his home. Would I be able to help him select the right PC and then train him to get him started with e-mail and internet? Of course, the answer was yes!

PANOPLY OF SWAGGER, PART 3

The third of the PANOPLY series.  Actually, it continues from my post “PAIR OF DEUCES, PART 4

So, I zeroed in for the kill. This was gonna be a drop kick in my local Kangaroo Court. There was no way I was gonna lose this case. My first victory. Imagine that!

“Dad, that’s a Drop-Down button,” I corrected him sternly. Precision was more than past due in our software efforts.

“Pop-Up button,” he countered.

“Drop-Down!” I said again, loudly and more stridently. I pointed to the button on the screen, next to the Prior Art field (see my post last week for a discussion of screen elements — if you’re really interested). “We need to be more precise about our language if we are going sell this product,” I added.  My turn to give the retribution: he was wrong and had it coming.

“James,” Dad shouted as he pushed back on his chair, standing, “again you show no common sense!”

‘What?!’ I asked myself. Is he going to try to humiliate me again, this time in front of Steve and Peggy? No way, I said to myself.

PANOPLY OF SWAGGER, PART 2

THE CALL will be ready to go next week.  In the the meantime, please enjoy this continuation of the PANOPLY series.  This part 2 elaborates on my post, “SCRATCH ON THE POOL TABLE OF LIFE,” and goes on from there.

People who marched to Dad’s doorstep with investment ideas, at first, were either extraordinarily interesting or entertaining.

Take Huntington Hartford, for instance. Though unknown to me, he was the storied scion of A&P. When I met him, I wasn’t aware of this, I thought he was just another eccentric inventor. Apparently, the world is full of them.  Huntington’s investment idea was a tennis-type game he had invented called “tennet.” As recounted in my post, “IN DEMAND, AND THEN NOT,” Dad and I drove to his apartment at the River House on Manhattan’s East Side. I played a game with Hartford (set in a squash court); he apparently made a pitch to my Dad to invest in his game. Dad said no. I forgot about this meeting until many years later, when I started writing this blog.

Ever heard of tennet?

I didn’t think so. Good thing my Dad passed on it.