HOW TO EXPLAIN THAT YOUR PARENT IS STRANGE

In a midtown Manhattan lawyer’s office in early 1995, I found myself sitting opposite from one of New York City’s sharpest legal minds. I had called Kord Lagemann a week or two earlier and asked for an appointment.  I had some important questions for him.  He had represented my Dad in his legal action (arbitration, actually) against Herby Wellington, the churning stock broker from “Slaminger” brokerage.  Kord had won a million dollar settlement in Dad’s favor, proving that he not only talked the talk but walked the walk.

Kord studied me intently as he lit his pipe. Although dressed professionally, he looked like he had stepped off a ferry at the Aker brygge ferry terminal in central Oslo.  Opening the meeting, I thanked him for his efforts on behalf of my Dad and the family.  After a serene pause, Kord responded that Slaminger’s actions and those of its broker had been clearly abusive and excessive.  He had been happy to help.

Pressing on, I explained to him the reason for my visit. My Dad had recently received a “present” consisting of a brand new red BMW from Herby. And, as a result, Dad had now reopened a stockbroking account with the aforementioned broker, the one that Kord had successfully sued.  Kord showed no reaction as he puffed on his pipe and listened to my concerns attentively.

“You’re right,” he told me, “There is reason for concern.” But there was nothing he or I could do.  Meeting over.  I was stunned.

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BRAND NEW RED CAR

The events recounted in my post last week, “PANOPLY OF SWAGGER, PART 2,” took place in the mid-to-late 1980s. It was a tumultuous time for me. I had finally taken my place in the family business — the one I had grown up in — only to discover that the business that bears my name turned out to be a toxic place for me personally.

Specifically, it wasn’t the business per se.  The work and the employees were cool.  Even Yoshi!

It was my Dad, the founder and CEO, the man I looked up to, who had sadly become erratic and “eccentric.” So much so that, with great reservations, I decided to leave the company and go back to school to earn my MBA.  One market crash later, I found that, much to my shock and chagrin, I was back at the very same company in the mid-1990s. Things had not improved.

Last time, I introduced a character named Herby Wellington, a world famous stockbroker and financial genius of the storied Wall Street firm, “Slaminger.¹”

I suspect that Herby persistently cold-called my Dad until he somehow got through. As a matter of course, Dad dodged such calls, occasionally yelling into the receiver and slamming it down in front of the staff at Olcott International.  Everybody was entertained.  Except, perhaps, for the cold caller broker.

CRASHES NEXT TO ROOM 31, REVISITED

23 years after the events of my last story, “CRASHES NEXT TO ROOM 31,” would you know that your humble narrator is still plying the highways of the Garden State? In fact, I drive through the Lincoln Tunnel regularly on my way to work.

As I pondered this story, I was furtively glancing over my shoulder while exiting or entering the I-495 trench leading to the gaping hole of the Lincoln Tunnel. It’s a very busy place, a “great attractor” of traffic where cars merge and change lanes on a moment’s notice. I could only steal a glimpse or two safely of the former York Motel, more easily on the New York-bound side. It’s still there, looking much more polished in 2017 than it did in 1994 (or 1982). Gone is the sign advertising “hourly rates.” Up is the new logo of a national motel chain and what appears to be coat of fresh looking white paint.

I had never been a guest of the York Motel on a nightly – or otherwise – basis and thought that stopping by for a quick look around might be interesting. I wondered if I would be able to find the infamous room 31 and what the motel might look and feel like close up.

CRASHES NEXT TO ROOM 31

Crashes were not always relegated to software programs. Sometimes I experienced other kinds.  And they often happened close to the office.  Or next to scary places nearby.

In late spring 1994, Dad and I made a marketing call to a potential client without Bob. It was a major telecom company based in northern New Jersey, about an hour’s drive from Weehawken. The prospect was already running one of our competitor’s patent management systems, and wasn’t looking for a change. Rather, this was going to be a straight-up discussion about annuity payment services, right down Dad’s alley.

After some preparation, we plunked down inside my Dad’s lobotomized Mercedes Benz and traced our way to the company via the Garden State’s ribbon of expressways as guided by a crusty folded highway map.  As mentioned in my post “HIS NAME WAS BOB GERHARDT,” Dad had a method of increasing gasoline efficiency in automobile engines. It involved disabling multiple cylinders within the engine based on the simple premise that each cylinder is a source of fuel consumption and combustion. If you can shut them off, you will consume less fuel.

What could be simpler?

PAIR OF DEUCES, PART 3

Did I mention that 1994 was a busy year? Yes, I think I have, many times!

The trade shows that year were a hit! At the INTA trade show, I demoed our storied DOS program for trade marks and snagged a buyer. Too bad a minor bug in the program aborted the sale during the client install.

Soon after that botched installation, Dad and I were back in Washington in June for the AIPLA trade show. What INTA is for trade marks, AIPLA is for patents. That year, we had something that set us distinctly apart from the competition.

I mean, everyone had a DOS management system for patents. That’s where the fun began, of course. And then everyone had a fancy new Windows system as well. Windows had emerged as the ‘it’ system; everyone recognized it as the wave of the future. The version current at that time was Windows 3.1; Windows 95 was still a year away from introduction.

Only Olcott International had a third box, the cyclops eye of a computer system. An Apple Mac and a fully functional patent management system running on it.

PAIR OF DEUCES, PART 2

A software installation is the natural follow-on event to testing and demonstrating. Both start with a lot of preparation.

I love the analogy of an honest-to-goodness dog and pony show.  Set up and rehearsal are key.  The poodles are washed and clipped, their manes and tails festooned with ribbons. Ponies, for their part, are brushed and adorned with headdresses.  The hoops are lit up just before the show.

The secret sauce is figuring out which doggie biscuits (or horse apples) the little bastards will die for. Once known, the tricks and jumps will be perfect.

It’s the practice, of course, that makes everything run like clockwork. You get to see the idiosyncrasies of all performers, providing the necessary insight to separate those that don’t play nice with each other. And, of course, you lead with the pairs that shine together. 

PAIR OF DEUCES, PART 1

As technology rolled into the mid-1990s, the price of IBM-compatible machines dropped precipitously at just about the same time that big boxes graced with cow motifs began to litter the floors of Olcott International.

It was the advent of Gateway Computers!

gateway-computer-logo-md

While Yoshi still felt he could build ‘em cheaper from scratch, there was no arguing that buying from vendors like Gateway saved both time and money. In the end, Yoshi didn’t complain about giving up one of his many jobs; he had enough to do in terms of managing the patent payment system and troubleshooting hardware from whatever vendor.

Soon after I returned to Olcott International in June 1992, my work PC was updated from DOS to Windows 3.1. In my recent post “ASSEMBLY, PART 2,” I marveled at Yoshi’s ability to build clones from scratch and soon thereafter sought the secret knowledge so I could do it myself too.

We had a lot of computers lying around in the “Computer Department.” In addition to my new Widows 3.1 machine, Steve, Peggy, Bob, and of course Yoshi had their own PCs, running both DOS and Windows. I needed both Operating Systems (“OS”) as I was creating data and testing our two Patent Management Systems (“PMS”) resident in both environments.

However, there was one more desktop machine in the “Computer Department.” A shiny box with a glittering and different OS. One that made ethereal sounds when booting up with a picture of a smiling face. In fact, it was no clone at all; it was made by the same company that jealously guarded its fancy-schmancy operating system and had popularized the use of a mouse in a point-and-click type of interface.

The Apple Macintosh computer. I mentioned this cult-in-a-box in my post “CUTTING EDGE AND TOTALLY COOL.”