Geezers Gallery 45

Samm Coombs

Someone once said, “Samm Coombs is one of America’s two great copy­writers,” which leaves all his peers vying to be the other one ! Be that as it may, Samm is unques­tion­ably an adver­tising Geezer having joined Folger’s ad depart­ment in 1950 and exiting the agency side in 1990. He has since held to the Geezer credo, “Press-​on, regard­less.” In Samm’s case he pressed on, with another Geezer, Hal Larson, into the Publishing busi­ness, forming Halo Books that in its heyday had a list of 21 titles, 8 of which were authored by the propri­etors.

Samm currently languishes in California’s Geezer Mecca, Palm Desert, where he writes a Geezer-​oriented news­paper column (under the banner, “Time Happens”), samples furnished here­with.

For the record, Samm’s adver­tising resume starts with the afore­men­tioned Folger’s, thence to Koret of Cali­fornia (Promo­tions Director), followed by BBDO (Copy Group Head), McCann-​Erickson (Creative Super­visor), Allen Dorward (Creative Director), Kenyon & Eckhardt (Creative Director), Wilton, Coombs & Colnett (Founder/​President), C. Brewer, Hawai’i (Resorts Marketing Manager), Playboy Enter­prises (Creative Director of a nascent radio network), Doremus/​BBDO (VP Manager) and lastly, Samm Coombs’ Company (chief cook & bottle-​washer). Mr. Coombs’ “long, strange trip” through the adver­tising busi­ness encom­passed the 60’s creative renais­sance, when the West Coast reigned supreme thanks to the likes of Guild, Bascom & Bonfigli, Weiner-​Gossage, Chiat-​Day, not to forget Wilton, Coombs & Colnett or the likes of Hal Riney, Fred Manley, Peggy Green­field, et al.

Now that The Geezers welcome writers into the hereto­fore Graphics sanctum, Samm plans to attend the next gath­ering to receive the forgive­ness of those who cut his copy to accom­mo­date their picto­rial demands.


In Praise of Diver­sity

There are two ways of looking at life. One way is from several thou­sand miles out in space. From that perspec­tive there are no nations or borders ; no white faces or brown faces ; no Chris­tians or Muslims ; no liberals or conser­v­a­tives … just a small blue planet floating all be itself in empty space.

From this vantage point, it’s beyond compre­hen­sion that all over this little lone­some globe there are crea­tures called Homo sapiens who, since time immemo­rial, have been hacking each other to pieces because of their nation­ality, color and belief systems.

The other way to look at life here on the planet Earth is from your present point of view : up close and personal – where all the hacking and hating takes place.

Even from this view­point it is incom­pre­hen­sible why the inhab­i­tants of this tiny orb (located in an incon­se­quen­tial solar system on the fringes of a rela­tively small galaxy within an incred­ibly immense Universe that was almost 10 billion years old before our home came into exis­tence and will be around for more than a 100 billion years after our sun’s fires die out!) should have reason to hate/​resent/​distrust each other. One would think we’d be more inclined to hug one another consid­ering our precar­ious posi­tion in the cosmos.

But, no … instead of loving one another, we grow up suspi­cious of and fighting with our fellows. If you stop to analyze why we humans are like that, it is because of differ­ences. We find it diffi­cult to hug someone who looks different, sounds different, acts different, believes and lives differ­ently.

And yet we should cele­brate diver­sity. Who wants to listen to an

all-​saxophone band ? Nothing wrong with saxo­phones. But they sound a helluva lot better when mixed with brass, strings and percus­sion instru­ments. That’s what produces symphonies !

Think about it — what a sad, boring place this would be if all the birds were blue, all the flowers red, all the days sunny.

What’s so special about Mother Earth is its biodi­ver­sity. Like­wise, what’s so marvelous about this nation is its variety : its combi­na­tion of races, creeds, poli­tics, values, ad infinitum. Diversity/​variety is what makes us so unique, so inter­esting, so resourceful and strong.

Instead of wishing everyone was the same as you – be thankful for differ­ences : for immi­grants, for Shake­speare, for Rock & Roll, for Democ­rats and Teabag­gers … for all the different ingre­di­ents that make life such a deli­cious stew.

Granted, economics and geog­raphy create sepa­ra­tion, and sepa­ra­tion fuels contention. So one must concede there is no easy fix to the standoff twixt people. But we should –must — do a better job in seeking common ground ; not only by tolerating/​respecting diver­sity but by promoting it.

In so doing it will make your neigh­bor­hood, town, state, nation and planet a better place. Guar­an­teed.

© Samm Coombs, 9-​30-​2010


Onward & Upward

I will herein endeavor to support the propo­si­tion that the force of Nature is inex­orably upward, towards perfec­tion.

Consider how far homo sapiens has come in the past few millennia. Can you imagine a pack of Vikings rallying to halt the slaughter of seal pups, or a bunch of Eliz­a­bethans protesting the cutting down of giant sequoia, or ancient Romans rising up in right­eous indig­na­tion over an unjust war ?

A few centuries ago the great mass of humanity lived as peas­ants and slaves. It required dawn to dusk labor to half fill their bellies. Survival left no time or desire to develop a vision of a higher order of exis­tence. Howso­ever, this evolu­tion from bent-​over beast to our present (rela­tive) elegance is testi­mony that man, like Rome, wasn’t built in a day … much less six days.

Did you know a few thou­sand years ago (a mere tick on the evolu­tionary clock) Greeks, Persians, Indians, Chinese, Egyp­tians, et al, could not recog­nize the color blue?! Aris­totle spoke of the “tricol­ored rainbow,” Homer of the “wine-​dark sea.” In the Old Testa­ment, the Rig-​Veda, Herodotus’ histo­ries, along with the epic Iliad & Odyssey, the sky is described thou­sands of times without one mention of blue. That’s because the eye’s ability to differ­en­tiate the full spec­trum of color is rela­tively recent. Unless you are an anthro­pol­o­gist, this is no big thing – except that it demon­strates that (wo)man is devel­oping ; being perfected.

What is impor­tant to know is not all of us are being perfected at the same rate. Some­body had to see “blue” before some­body else. Blue­ness didn’t just happen to everyone simul­ta­ne­ously – as if God declared blue to exist and splashed it across the sky one morning so everyone would look up and exclaim, “Hallelujah, it’s blue ! Because only a few eyes could perceive blue before the many, early blue see-​ers surely had trouble relating what they saw to their blue-​blind friends. (Maybe the first loony bins were filled with folk who babbled about blue.)

The faculty of morality, without which the Golden Rule will never rule, appears to be mankind’s latest acqui­si­tion. Being a rela­tively new trait, there are many people who are amoral — i.e., without morality — and many more who are occa­sion­ally moral, on a condi­tional basis. When they lapse, they are consid­ered immoral.

A working descrip­tion of morality would be someone with a sense of right and wrong – who instinc­tively feels what another person is feeling, hence is likely to treat others in the same manner he/​she would like to be treated. Trouble happens when the moral person assumes everyone else is. At this point of mankind’s devel­op­ment that is not a fair assump­tion. You will find your­self playing with people who do not play by your (moral) rules. This can be awfully confusing and often dangerous.

It is almost impos­sible for a compassionate/​moral person to under­stand how someone with the same phys­ical attrib­utes can coolly torture another human being (much less dumb animals). Anyone who could stick red-​hot pins in some wretch’s eyeballs is not like you, he/​she only looks like you. It is easy for amoral people to prey on their moral brethren. It’s quite impos­sible to judge who is playing by which rules. Many amoral people attend church and mouth pious plat­i­tudes. (After all, they don’t know they’re amoral.) But when the going gets tough, they’ll show their true colors : lying, cheating, and even killing to help them­selves. Now, at least, you know why some people can be sooo bad.

All the above bears testi­mony that so so-​called Age Of Aquarius (akin to Heaven On Earth) is a-​comin’. In due time all of us will be inca­pable of doing unto others what we would not have done unto us. Fast on the heels of that evolu­tionary plateau will come the ulti­mate human facility : Cosmic Conscious­ness ; an innate sense of inter-​connectedness. Some few (a very few) possess this now – about as many who could see “blue” in Homer’s time. But what one has, all will have. It is the law of Nature.

© Samm Coombs 10-​13-​2010


The Eterhal “Now” Making Your Life A Series of Begin­nings.

Time, as noted in a previous column, is a tricky busi­ness. In our sense-​oriented, three-​dimensional world, time is a man-​made conve­nience measuring that period occu­pied by a body passing in space from one given point to another.

That sense we have of going from past to future is based on what physi­cists call “the ther­mo­dy­namic arrow of time,” what causes things to go from ‘order’ to ‘disorder,’ low entropy to greater entropy (why ice melts, glass shat­ters and the young grow older). This ther­mo­dy­namic arrow is the by-​product of the cosmo­log­ical arrow let loose by the Big Bang (or “Creation,” if you prefer).

Not the stuff for a column in the Mobile Home News ? Well then, let’s reduce “Time” to matters concerning your here and now, the key being NOW.

As you are reminded every day, our bodies dete­ri­o­rate over time. The only constant is the present NOW. Our mate­rial form is allotted a limited number of quan­ti­ta­tive NOWs. To make the most of them, we must resist having disturbing memo­ries or future fears to pollute the poten­tially perfect present.

You say your personal present is not perfect ? You aren’t in any kind of pain right NOW are you ? You aren’t starving to death, or having a lung removed at this very moment. You may have just received an IRS notice to appear at some later date – but the fact remains, right NOW, as you read this page, everything’s okay (or you wouldn’t be reading this!). Maybe yesterday wasn’t okay, maybe you won’t be okay an hour from now, much less when you visit the IRS. But right NOW, there’s nothing wrong, right ? You can be unem­ployed with no means to make the next mort­gage payment, If that makes you feel non-​okay, it’s because you’re antic­i­pating a moment when won’t be feeling okay. But that’s not NOW. Even when that horrible moment arrives, that NOW will be so filled with activity, you won’t be asking your self if it’s good or bad. You’ll be handling the situ­a­tion. Soldiers don’t stop in the middle of a battle, after receiving a gunshot wound and say, “Hey ! This NOW is no good.” Those few NOWs that are not good take care of them­selves – they are action NOWs. The NOWs we dote on are private, passive and contem­pla­tive NOWs, all of which are perfectly good NOWs. And yet those control­lable NOWs are the ones that get out of control to make us miser­able. The lesson here is don’t use the present to fear the future or regret the past.

This does not mean we do not have to deal with the past or provide for the future in the present. What would happen to Mr. Squirrel come winter if he didn’t collect nuts in the Fall ? Making provi­sions for the future doesn’t mess up the present. Buying life insur­ance should be a plea­sure.

As a moment in time, NOW is a clean slate, open to any possi­bility. You are always at the point when any future can over­take you. Not to put too fine a point on it, every NOW is a begin­ning, a spring­board, the point from which all possi­bil­i­ties proceed. The old saw “Today is the first day of the rest of your life” is right-​on.

© Samm Coombs, 11-​6-​2010


Press On, Regard­less

Those of you who are in your late 70’s or beyond are statis­ti­cally deceased, living on borrowed time. So what’s the logic for planting an orange tree that will bear little fruit for a number of years yet ? Assuming you don’t believe in rein­car­na­tion, why be concerned about the degra­da­tion of our planet when, after all, the sea level won’t inun­date Wall Street for 50 years or more ? Why invest for the long-​term or take up a new hobby that can never be perfected ? And you may be excused if you’re unim­pressed with 100,000-mile drive train warranties.

Well, in the first place, it’s not over till that Fat Lady Sings. And even after her Swan Song, many seniors believe there is another act on a much larger stage to follow their phys­ical demise. But that’s not the issue here.

The issue here is why do the aged keep on keeping on ? From whence comes that inde­fati­gable, indomitable, never-​say-​die spirit that keeps us tall in the saddle rather than lying about in the barn complaining about saddle sores ? What moti­vates us to round the bend into old age at full trot is not easily explained. It’s not some secret you stumble across in your autumn years. It’s a matter of dignity, and dignity is a product of your past ; some­thing you build into your life one brick at a time.

Your quests never end, nothing is ever finished ; the war is never won ; every battle must be re-​fought for different reasons on different fields.

To be sure, there will come a time when Nature whis­pers some­thing in your ear – no one knows what … until it’s your ear ! — signally it’s time to hang up your helmet and retreat to the rear to await further instruc­tions. In the mean­time, life is tumul­tuous ; we are always losing and regaining our balance. Win some, lose some. What matters is our will­ing­ness and readi­ness to (re)join the battle. “Once more into the breech, Horatio …”

This is not easy. One might be forgiven come 6 A.M. tomorrow morning to ques­tion the point of it all. How much easier to remain in bed rather than show­ering again, brushing your remaining teeth again, taking your meds again, taking out the garbage again, shop­ping again, cooking again, eating again and all the other agains. But, you place your feet on the floor because, 1) what’s the alter­na­tive?, 2) you are at a point where any future can over­take you, and 3) dignity demands you Press On, Regard­less.

© Samm Coombs, 11-​21-​2010