Posts Tagged ‘Buick’

Welcome to the Focus Group

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

The first rule of Focus Club is – you do not talk about Focus Club.

Sitting around a table with strangers and snacks provided me with a glimpse of the higher levels of emotional pollution we live with today.

Before focus group attendance required a reference and the best paying research firms became fodder for Yelp, back when the topic of extra cash was still “light” conversation, my school-teacher mom enjoyed bragging about the extra $40, $60 or $90 she’d nabbed just for sitting around talking cars or cooking utensils. Her exaggerated enthusiasm made my brother and I feel like idiots if we failed to grab our own piece of this windfall. So I signed up.

Phone interviews asking after household budgets, TV time, annual electronics expenditures and so forth were the first step. Screeners frequently came off like car salesmen –as if the only thing between them and a three-day weekend was filling a late afternoon quota– but it was difficult not to play along. Answers that were a degree or three off elicited a disappointed sigh and a more “accurate” response.
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NO EXCUSES FOR CUBA Pt. 2

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Habana Centro_Where Excuses Go to Die5I may have returned from Cuba a more informed tourist, but I remain a clumsy narrator, for I’ve experienced more than I know how to process at once.

So, with my eye ever on excuses (and a reliance on my iPhone camera for more complete coverage), I’ll just jump right in.

Our casa particular was in Habana Centro, the most densely populated district in the city of Havana, where much of life is spent where the action is: right outside the building in which one lives. Street sports like handball, self-regulating pet and child care, gossip, singing merchants, colorful laundry Habana Centro_Where Excuses Go to Die3being pinned to decaying balconies, inventive refuse repurposing, prostitution, championship dominoes, and, of course, more vintage Chevy tweaking than outside a Barrett-Revolutionary Square_Where Excuses Go to DieJackson auction are daily occurrences, rain or shine. Drivers use their horns in polite little taps to warn pedestrians, slower cars, and ubiquitous bicycle taxis that they’re approaching from behind, because walking in the middle of the narrow streets is necessary – and not because the city lacks sidewalks. This is about Darwinian natural selection: misshapen rebar barely clinging to crumbles of concrete isn’t just a photo op, it’s a reminder that falling chunks of rotting rooftops are common, especially following an afternoon downpour. Our local host was explaining this to my wife when a basketball sized slab of wall proved his point a few feet away.

Habana Centro_Where Excuses Go to Die1

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