Long Con Turkey

The Long-Con, I’m a fan.

Let me start by asking, has there ever been a legitimate request made via email for the banking information necessary to wire money? Do tell. I should probably back up here. Several moons ago, I received an email from a literary agent in Turkey requesting a complimentary PDF of my manuscript. I believe the agent may have mentioned the particular publisher from Turkey that was interested in the translation rights for my book. The entire email was spelled correctly, and if memory serves (it rarely does by the way, so beware) there were less than two grammatical errors–possibly none. Even so, I immediately dismissed the email, positive it was a scam. Still, I took to Google to do some research. There were other souls out there discussing the very same agency, not too many and not too few, with similar questions about this Turkish agent’s legitimacy. If you are an aspiring writer, you’ll probably want to get cozy with the website Writer Beware, which details many of the various scams used to prey upon the “oh-so-desperate-to-be-published.” But, even after going there and numerous searches, I could find no conclusive evidence that the agent and agency weren’t legitimate. Many legitimate publishing websites even listed the agency as one to reach out to in order to get published in Turkey. In the end, I decided to proceed with sending a PDF of the manuscript. I had detailed all the possible miserable outcomes of even that act, most of which ended with me and my wife somehow be kidnapped and tortured and dead, and surmised that at the very worst, someone out there might publish my book without my knowledge and try to make a few lira. That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world I thought. “God speed PDF,” I might have said, and probably forgot that I’d even sent by lunch that day. That was way back in June I believe.

Then, sometime around September, lo and behold, I heard back from this gentleman again. He’d found an interested publisher there, and hoped that I’d not moved ahead with someone else (a nice bit of flattery I thought), and said if I was still interested that he’d like to proceed with drawing up a contract. Still one-hundred percent convinced that this was all a scam, I replied, “Absolutely. Please send me the details and I’ll review them immediately.” Again, I heard nothing for several days. I had a new job, was living in a new town, and not unlike the first time, the whole thing fell far into the deep recesses of my brain–probably filed somewhere under Potential Mistakes I’m Currently Making That Will Result in My Demise. It’s a thick file, so not everything sticks.

A few days later, another correspondence with a contract attached. I read it over countless time, consulted with other traditional published writers, googled the names of all partites involved, spun my wheels, and in the end decided to allow possibly ten percent of myself believe it was legit. $1000 advance, and a small percentage of any of the 1500/2000 copies they were planning on publishing in Turkish. Cool by me. “Let my fame grow in Turkey!” I might have internally shouted. I signed the contract, sent two paperbacks, and even then was still certain enough that it was all too good to be true that I decided to hold off on the usual grotesque PRing of myself (something I’ve also often surmised will lead to my early demise) until I received the first half of my advance–then and only then would I allow myself to make a glorious post on Facebook along the lines of, “Friends and Countrymen! I am now also a traditionally published author in the great land of Turkey!”

The receipt of my contract and books was made known via yet another email from the agent. At this point, I might have allowed my belief in the whole thing to shift to about thirty percent. A guy who has “Question Everything. Trust No One.” tattooed on his arm doesn’t go to full on optimism about potential good fortune overnight. Still, I was damn close to making it big news on social media–I’ve got a hole in my soul that needs filling after all.

And so, finally, as I’ve surely bored you toward this post’s conclusion, today, seven or so months after the initial contact from this agent from Turkey, I received an email asking for my bank account information in order to wire me my advance. Ha. Of course. After a bout of even more Googling on him, his company, and the whole scenario–I still can’t say one way or another, and my mind has me believing that the party or parties involved are performing an excellent long con. There are numerous sites and posts out there that would seem to prove them absolutely legitimate. And yet, I can not commit. I am absolutely convinced that I have finally met the grifting bamboozlers that I myself have always romanticized myself to be. Patient, attentive, and going after the most skeptical of souls–doing an amazing amount of seeding, cajoling, and crafting in the hopes that a long, long way down the road I might bilk you of your money with something as obvious a swindle as a wire transfer. If I haven’t already.

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The Nicest Skin Poacher Ever

Just a few months ago, I finally got around to having a long-overdue full-body skin cancer screening. I apologize for whatever mental images of me that might provide you. Like the tree I fell from, I am a man of many freckles and moles. And somewhere, buried in the complex history of the extended family, I believe there has been melanoma–and so, I’m never really super keen on getting checked out, for fear of what they might find. This time around, after an exam that included lab results concerning two, I was given a clean bill of health yet again.

“Yes! Another year, free of worry.” I thought.

At least ‘free of worry’ regarding my moles, until of course, a few days before the next exam that I had planned on having with the very doctor I’d just seen around the same time next year. I liked her bedside manner–it was an appropriate mix of motherly caring, put-off and disgusted girlfriend, genuinely interested scientist, and awkward first-time stand-up comedian.

“Good for me,” I thought. “Hard to find a Dermi you can trust.”

Even our recent decision to move didn’t phase me. I surmised that Boston would be close enough to head back specifically to see her. The whole experience had been just that good. Plus, she’d made me promise to come back in a year to see her again, and I had. And this Dermi, in my opinion, was a real keeper. Or so I thought.

Last week, I received a letter from the clinic that she was a part of. The note was brief, and I am paraphrasing here, but it read, “Dr. X, has decided to leave us. She will be opening a practice elsewhere, etc. But, we’d still appreciate your business.” I was simultaneously crushed that she’d decided to go and elated that she too, like me, had decided to call it quits for a bit on NYC.

“Maybe she’s even going to Boston,” I thought. “Wouldn’t that be something?”

A few days later though, while going through paperwork to dispose of before our move, I reread the letter from the clinic. What it said hadn’t changed, not one bit. But, upon this second examination of the words they’d use to explain her absence, I began to formulate a new theory of what had occurred–why they dismissed her, what she had been up to, and how the letter itself was just their way of sweeping the whole ugly affair under the proverbial rug.

Instantaneously, I came to believe the following: She had never had a license, hadn’t even gone to school, had tricked the other doctors who owned that clinic into hiring her with the same bedside manner shenanigans I mentioned before, she loved other people’s moles, maybe their skin, she collected moles and skin bits, moles were like her trophies, she wasn’t a serial killer yet, but you could be sure they’d found tons of small pieces of her former patient’s bodies in the refrigerator of her small studio apartment on the Lower East Side, and in due time, just shaving pieces of moles off for keep sakes hadn’t been enough, a loud scream had occurred from a room at the clinic, and the other staffers ran in, only to find her having attempted to shave a patient’s head or other limb clean off.

Given the other resident Doctors’ oversight, it makes sense that they’d make the claim that “she’d decided to move on.” Obviously right? They aren’t going to pen a letter detailing what you and I now know really happened. Fortunately, I know how to read between the lines, and read between them I do.

Perhaps less fortunately though, I now worry that the entirety of my two visits with her, in which she most definitely took those two little pieces of me with her for her frozen collection at home, was all for not–at least as it pertains to my clean-bill of health, I mean, she’ll have them to pet and love on still.

And so, I’ll have to be a bit more careful in selecting the next Dermi, because ZocDoc.com, really doesn’t detail this sort of thing.

Selling Out on Honesty

I was recently asked (via my publicist) by the editor at SellingPower.com to do a six to eight hundred word blog post that focused on salespeople. Or something of that ilk. After penning the submission below, they passed. Since the bulk of the post is about honesty in selling, and they didn’t care for it, I’ll have to roll with the assumption that it’s a concept too dreadfully boring to engage anyone–and that ultimately they were hoping I’d write some op-ed piece about how abusing alcohol had made me an incredible force to be reckoned with in the world of marketing. Or maybe, just maybe, when it comes to writing something of a semi-serious nature–something that doesn’t revolve around the umpteen ways I might die today–I’m just not a very good writer. Or, and what I’ve chosen to believe, is that they aren’t fans of honesty–maybe there is no place for it in the world of movers and shakers. I doubt that’s why they passed, but believing it to be the reason certainly helped put myself at ease with the rejection. Either way, seems a pity for the message to go nowhere. And so, I present to you my dear readers the blog post SellingPower.com decided wasn’t right for them. Enjoy.

An Honest Pitch by Peter Rosch

Full disclosure: I am writing this blog post in the hopes of selling a few more copies of my debut novel, My Dead Friend Sarah.

Honesty is my policy, and I’m of the opinion that at the end of the day, honesty is paramount to successful selling. Honesty doesn’t mean unsexy, unfunny, un-almost-anything for that matter. It simply is the basis for how I attempt to begin all my communication crafting about the goods, services, and other can’t-live-withouts companies pay me to hock. I am selling for a living, but as a consumer I try to remain suspicious of my motives.

What have I sold? Countless pairs of jeans, numerous brands of beer, electronic gadgets, deodorant, soaps, treats, eats, services and even personalities. Sixteen years as an awarding winning creative cog in the global marketing machine–as a writer, art director, strategist, creative director, and brand visionary–have me feeling just qualified enough to share my beliefs regarding convincing people to part with their hard-earned dollars. My most recent creation? Unilever’s AXE Susan Glenn campaign out of Bartle Bogle Hegarty New York.

I consider myself a living breathing contradiction. A man hell-bent on influencing the masses towards purchases they hadn’t considered, who himself rarely puts his own money on the table for many of those very same items and services. As a marketer I’m ferocious; as a consumer I’m beyond cautious.

“Question everything. Trust no one.” These words are permanently inked just below my left shoulder, and while the tattoo’s origin isn’t specific to transactions involving my money, right or wrong, it does serve as a guiding principal in my purchasing patterns. Agendas are everywhere, and now, more than ever, the infinite number of marketers, big and small, who shout at me daily in their efforts to take my time, money, and perhaps a little bit of my sanity, is mind-boggling. And I believe I’m being honest when I say to you, many of them are out and out lying to me.

Can I also honestly say that in all my time as an advertising creative that I’ve never bent the truth on a single project in order to woo a consumer? No. But, I will tell you that my most successful efforts, across a colorful spectrum of brands, have had one glaring thing in common: the messaging was born from a truth. A truth inherent to the product and its benefit to the consumer, or a truth that is inherent to the way people choose to use and live with a brand, product, or service.

It makes sense doesn’t it? Who among us wants to be lied to? I don’t enjoy it, and, like you, I have a great disdain for anyone who wastes my time. And if you are lying to me in an effort to grab my attention by making too-good-to-be-true claims that prey on my insecurities as a methodology to a quick buck, you are, in fact, wasting my time. And I am fully vested in the belief that even if you do successfully trick me and others from time to time, eventually that ill-conceived kernel in your sales pitch will come back to bite you on the ass.

I don’t buy or use everything I sell, and I don’t believe I have to think something is perfect for me in order to shill it to others. But for this salesman, it is increasingly important that what I’m saying about the items I’m trying to move be deeply rooted in a truth for the customer and target looking to benefit from their various uses. The golden rule is golden for a reason. Sell to others the way you’d have someone sell to you. It might just be that simple.

Sunny Central Park Stroll With My Demon

As I’ve mentioned before, a good deal of my brain activity in any given day is put against speculation of what dark deeds other people around me are scheming or engaged in at that moment. Typically, I don’t have to work very hard to fabricate exactly how their actions are going to impact me, directly or indirectly. These individuals aren’t always out to get me specifically, on occasion I’m sure I am only fated to be the collateral damage of whatever plans they have for someone else that day. It isn’t always about me, but as of late, I find myself wondering more and more if maybe I shouldn’t turn additional attention towards myself. What things am I doing daily that serve to destroy me?

I’m a big believer in the Shadow Self. Carl Jung defined the Shadow Self as “that which we think we are not.” To shed a touch more light on the concept let me just plagiarize a bit with this little nugget from the interwebs: You may believe that you are not like your neighbor who does this or that bad thing, but if those negative qualities you judge, were not also a part of you, then they would not trigger your emotions. You might be nodding in agreement, you might also be nodding the other direction in disgust or boredom–wondering how come your gracious author isn’t just talking, per usual, about something like, how he thinks the recent uptick in the number of hangover cures, morning-after recovery kits and beverages, is actually all part of a big brother style black-ops operation to slowly rid the world the chronically underachieving. Perhaps I’ll post proper about that little gem over the coming weekend, and so if you aren’t into a more meta post right now, I encourage you to come back in a few days for something only seemingly more disturbing that what follows here.

Part of any proper recovering addict’s or alcoholic’s Shadow Self, would be the disease of addiction itself. AA oldtimers are big fans of the saying, “While I’m in a meeting, my disease is out in the parking lot doing push-ups.” My knee-jerk reaction to the utterance of that phrase is usually something along the lines of the silent version of this sound, “Pffffft.” Most likely because the disease itself wants me to believe I’ve been cured. One need not look any farther than Zelda Rubinstein’s declaration, “This house is clean” to understand that if you’ve had demons, those suckers aren’t really ever leaving for good. And if you don’t keep making smart decisions (for example, in the case of the family from Poltergeist, moving out of the house immediately after that supposed victory) the spiteful little bastards will speak to you from time to time, coaxing you back into the very hell you left, with promises of renewed, consequence-less good times. They, or in my case, the other me, is shrewd. And I’ll be damned, because yet again, those cutesy bull-shit-phrases that litter the walls of the rooms of recovery are wickedly on point.

My life is a sensational dream; I couldn’t ask for more than I have, and my gratitude for all of it is through the roof. And yet, as recently as yesterday, just mere moments after finding near peace with everything going on in and around me thanks to an hour on an Upper Eastside couch, the voice of my demon was as loud as it had ever been. Wondering–almost aloud–as we strolled through Central Park on such a lovely day, “What would it be like if we made an effort to throw it all away? Wouldn’t that be quite the experience? To go deeper down the rabbit hole of madness and filth than ever before, if only to see if we could resurrect ourselves yet again.” My Shadow Self knows the way to my heart; my disease knows I’m always up for a challenge, and as twisted as its coaxing might sound to the average Joe, I found myself drawn to the idea. To destroy everything I’ve worked so hard to create, just to rebuild it again–from scratch, heck, without even scratch to get started. That’d be something.

On the other side of Central Park, we could get started. We still knew a few bars there from our first six years in New York City. We’d be well on our way into this new journey before lunch, and any of the various paths it might lead us down would only serve to strengthen our own understanding of what is at first hedonistic and sinfully enjoyable, until it also further educates us on what it truly means to be without hope, scratching from dark corners, without so much as a dime and not a friend left. With rapt attention, I listend to my disease, the demon within, as he held me close, shielding me from the beauty of the park and twisting the reality of what I have, while feeding me truths about many of the world’s injustices, the worst in people, reading me the troubling and sensationalistic headlines from the discarded rags that pass as news that we occasionally found underfoot. He had my curiosity, he had my attention, he had everything but my smart phone–which buzzed in my palm, only to tell me that someone had hearted the picture of my cat that I had posted on Instagram earlier that morning.

The Demon, smart SOB that he is, didn’t curse me out, didn’t continue trying to talk me into something other than heading to the subway to make a beeline to work, and didn’t let out some twisted tortured yelp as though I’d vanquished him once and for all–nope, he simply wished me a good rest of the day, and right before he left said, as casually as my very best friend might, “I’ll see you around, Rosch.”

The Person You Most Suspect

I have been sitting on a particular subject for a post for quite some time now. I guess when you are really postive that a certain someone is quietly observing you and everything you do–which would only naturally include punching your name into a Google search box in order to inform themselves about you–the idea of blogging about them and what you think they are up to as it pertains to you, could have dire consequences. The most probable consequence might be nothing more than their hurt feelings, though I might suggest hurt feelings can be the impetus to a whole slew of scenarios that unravel because  you’ve mischaracterized some soul who wasn’t up to anything close to what you’d been surmising–other than the part about plugging your name into that big-brother search box. On the other hand, maybe you make the post, as I am now, and that person reads it and decides to put their plan to enslave you, own you, torture you, and finally eat you into supersonic hyperdrive.

Yes, if you read that carefully, you could distill this episode down to one simple paranoid thought: Is this person basically Hannibal, and is he or she currently engaged in the time-honored sociopath’s orgasmic ritual of allowing me to go on living.

You see, the thrill isn’t just in the capture, the pain, and the kill–no, if what I’ve read about some of history’s best and brightest regarding serial killers is true–then a big part of the plan for you (or in this case me) is them watching you go about living your life like normal, all the while delightfully relishing in the not-so-misguided belief that it is they who are ultimately allowing you to keep doing just that. Sick as that sounds, if they are committed to their cause, then ultimately it isn’t really untrue is it? If someone is actually sitting around, debating the date they will put operation extinguish-your-existence into effect–well, unless you yourself have identified the individual and are making preparations to combat them on that fateful day, it would seem to me that they do, in fact, deserve to feel like they hold all the power.

So, let’s say you are near one-hundred percent positive that an individual, who in some social sense you “know,” is mapping out the remaining days of your life in their own-blood-ink onto the pages of a diary wrapped in the human skin of some, but not all, of their previous victims. Hold that thought for a second, and then answer this question: what are you prepared to do about it? (Not sure what movie that is from, but Morgan Freeman’s voice comes to mind).

If you are me–and thankfully for you, you are most definitely not me–you walk the line of believing your gut and dismissing it as just another one of your schizo internal ramblings; a fabrication based on bad films, nicotine, and the over-consumption of chocolates and aspartame infused beverages. And nearly every single day you lean in favor of the seemingly logical notion that anything so perverse couldn’t be true of anyone, and that your imagination is simply getting the better of you. Thus, you do very little about it. You ignore the gut feeling that nature gave you in order to sense impending doom so that you may run as far away from it as possible. You write a blog post about it instead, believing that airing that particular scenario to the world will somehow fortify the more sane notions in your skull that suggest that anything your gut might be telling you can’t be believed–and that your life is not a movie, and fiction, despite what they say, is still stranger than the truth.

And maybe, just maybe, you sit back and hit the publish button on your blog–in the hopes that admitting to all of the above will be seen by said person, and that he or she will become disillusioned with you now that they know that you know and thus some of the thrill of the sport of it all has been diminished for them.

After all, would you still eat a pig if right before you went to slaughter him, it said, “I knew you were going to eat me all along.” If your answer is yes, then perhaps you are the very person my post served to foil, though apparently most miserably.

Beep, Beep. She’s Dead.

I run to clear my mind. That makes me one of millions who do it for the very same reason. Just how much crazy can actually be removed during a run of three or four miles is debatable. Most days, if I’m blaring my music loud enough and mimicking the structure of what the guitar player in each track is doing with his hands, with my own left and right hand, I can put a good deal of my lunacy off for the duration of the run itself. But, somedays–like yesterday morning–no amount of music, pounding, increase in speed, or anything else will remove the thoughts I’d rather not have. And, again like yesterday, too often the impetus of something disturbing only occurs to me because I am out there running in the first place.

I’ll admit, yesterday morning I had the music down pretty low. I was already feeling a bit skittish about the possibilites of either vehicular manslaughter or early morning muggery. So, let’s call the volume of my iPod Shuffle a four out of ten. My wife was out running as well, which is also the norm, but had left sometime after my own start–so I had no visual on her, and due to our recent return from vacation (cat burglars, you missed your chance. our cat is still here by the way) Ariele’s house keys were still at the sitter’s. Girl is always on my mind, but knowing I’d have to keep a keen ear out for her return to our abode was the thought leading the majority of the crazy parade marching within my skull. Would I be showering? Would I be on the roof? Is the buzzer broken, and how long would she be locked out? Basic stuff.

As I crossed an intersection, with the light, a lone black SUV with tinted windows sat awaiting the green indication that would allow its driver to proceed to their destination. For no particular reason that I can figure, the driver honked his horn–beep, beep. There wasn’t anyone else around at that ungodly hour, this is Williamsburg, Brooklyn after all and hipsters–even the ones who jog, and many do–don’t usually patrol the street prior to seven AM. After a quick scan for the intended recipient of those devilish toots, I made a quick spin to see if the driver was trying to flag me down for directions, or if it was even someone I knew using their horn to say, “good morning.”

Couldn’t make anyone out, there were no additional honks, and so I continued on my way. So did the SUV, making a right turn at that intersection and fading off into the distance behind me. Panic set in, and in less than two seconds my brain decided it knew exactly why the SUV’s driver had made those honks. Clearly the driver had Ariele bound and gagged in the back, and either she had managed to scream my name or, and far more likely, her abductor had been tailing us for sometime and already knew that I was her husband. Being the sick twist that is an entry level requirement for purveyors of such misdeeds, he had decided to take the game up a notch–in his head, his own thinking was, “I’ll give this guy a sporting chance. I’ll honk the horn, if he has either the courtesy or balls to come over to the SUV to see if I need something, I’ll release his wife and never bug them again. And if he doesn’t, well, then what happens to his wife is meant to be–I gave him a chance, one last chance to save his bonnie lass (he’s a Depp fan apparently) and he blew it.”

I didn’t bother spinning around to chase the SUV to at least get a plate number, something I might have done a decade ago. Nor did I spin around and attempt to immediately find my wife out there, to verify her safety–zig zagging up and down every block at double speed in the hopes of catching at least a glimpse of her to reassure myself that my brain simply hates me and gets a kick out of making the rest of my body perform ridiculous tasks. Ohhhh… if I didn’t need that brain for other things, I’d give it a good punching for certain (shake of head to self).

Ariele made it home of course, which was a real relief to our cat, because in the time between my safe arrival home and hers, I had informed our cat that it was possible her mother wasn’t coming home that day. Laying the ground work for the kitty version of the seven stages of grief–after all, they are like twenty stages in human stages.

Improbable vs. Probable, and the role of Preparation

Full Disclosure: I’m out for blood. In this particular instance blood in the form of restitution. I am not writing this post solely to achieve this goal, I’ve got to write about something, and the gift of Level 9 Paranoia is unapologetic about its ability to infuse itself into nearly any inane occurrence I might experience out there in my world. So, do I want to rave on like a lunatic about how disappointed I am to have arisen this morning to find that Jet Blue didn’t make good on its promise to deliver our luggage yesterday evening? Of course I do. There’s not much of value in that one bag that my wife and I had co-packed with just enough possessions to cover our four day journey to Austin to see our family and a few friends. Also, I am far from cranky about it. I’m super appreciative that we made it to our destination in one piece. And, if I have been informed correctly, since it has been twenty-four hours since we arrived, and we still don’t have our stuff, we can and will submit our receipts (up to sixty dollars) to Jet Blue in order to cover the items we deemed essential to not losing a whole day to the incompetence of someone, somewhere-who made sure our bag took a trip from John F. Kennedy Airport to Seattle, via Long Beach, and then back.

Since the minute my wife delivered the news about our missing bag to me while I stood in a long rental car line, I’ve been wearing a pretty shiny optimism hat about the whole thing. And while I’m a little saddened that no one from Jet Blue bothered to phone us last night to tell us our worldlies still weren’t on the way, and actually hadn’t even left the airport yet, I’m living the advice I had tattooed on my arm five or six years ago and surrendering to however this plays out. And in the mean time, we’ve been having a sick-good time out at LBJ. It’s hard to be upset when you are surrounded by so much love, beauty, and are saddled atop a bright yellow crotch rocket (sans wheels) skimming across the lake while taking in the smiles of family and strangers. I’ll live without this bag, and live well-and if you’ve stayed with me this far, I’ll be grateful that this more than probable scenario and inconvenience is all that came to pass. Because, on the 3rd of July and a few of the days prior, I had an infinite amount of less-than-probable situations playing out in my head that revolved around one of my favorite things to do: travel via flying machines and deal with all that entails.

The LAST thing I’d given any significant thought to was having Jet Blue lose our bag, even as I am aware that it happens to people every day. I don’t care why it happens, it just happens, and no amount of uprising against the airlines and their inability to make absolutely sure your bag makes the same journey you do, is going to completely remove the chance of it happening from the travel-equation. Will I check luggage again? Yes. I’ll roll the dice again, confident that lightning does, indeed, strike twice-but dammit, I like my liquids and gels, and I also enjoy the illusion of roaming freedom that I experience when my hands are free of any handles, cups, bags, satchels, and the like. It’s a physiological feeling that works a psychological number on me in airports and even out in the world-for me, no matter where I am headed, having my hands free of any responsibility leaves me feeling really really swell about dealing with all the other improbabilities my conjuring mind might claim to foresee.

I’m not going to bore you with every little twist I dreamed up before getting on what hopefully won’t be our last successful flight. For one thing, my laptop’s charger is in that cursed but well-traveled piece of luggage. And, if you’ve been paying attention to me here, than you should have a pretty good idea of what kinds of things I had prepared for, and then you can laugh extra hard at me for having given zero thought to the most obvious of them all.