September 2007


One of my very favorite under-the-radar blogs, Why Advertising Sucks, posted a fantastic essay on Pride and Ego this morning.

It’s a bit of wonderful writing (which is nothing new for them), and their point is absolutely spot on. It’s a fine line to walk, pride versus ego, and one that requires vigilance and discipline… two things also needed for any kind of longevity in the music business (or any creative endeavor).

Be good people.

Be proud.

Don’t be a dick, though… confidence, not arrogance.

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Earlier this year, I was on tour on the east coast.  Stopping through Philadelphia, I remembered that on my previous trip, I missed out on getting a Philly Cheese Steak.  When I told people I had gone there, they immediately asked, “Did you get a Philly Cheese Steak?” which, to their disappointment, I replied, “No.”  I couldn’t let that happen again.  Besides, I never had one, and they’re probably pretty good, right?  Seizing the opportunity, on this trip, I asked our host where to go for the best.  He thought about it for awhile, trying to sort between the ‘tourist’ places, and the ‘legit’ places.  Finally, he decided on the one – the best Philly Cheese Steak we could get.  I was excited!  We said goodbye to our host and hit the road, heading downtown to stuff our faces.

Upon arriving, I noticed a line down the block and around the corner.  “Wow,” I thought, wondering what the ‘tourist’ places were like seeing that this one was so crowded.  We got at the end of the line and my friend Jason commented, “You’re getting on the Philly Cheese Steak ride.”  We both laughed and tried to keep a good attitude for the long wait ahead of us.

After an hour and a half, we were finally inside, but then noticed that a turnstile began, with even more people waiting to order their sandwich.  Jason gave up, and left for a walk, wishing me luck.  I couldn’t bail out now.  This sandwich was going to be fucking amazing!  I mean, look at all the people waiting.  The walls were lined with signed photos of celebrities saying that this place was “the best.”  This is THE REAL DEAL.  I’m going to have a legitimate, certified, glorious Philly Cheese Steak. 

When I got up to the counter to order, the cook didn’t even say anything to me.  He just looked at me.  He had been making sandwiches for hours straight, and wasn’t in the mood for conversation.  I told him what I wanted and he responded, not with words, but by dropping some sliced meet on the grill and shuffling around the piles of peppers and onions.  I moved my way down to the register, where the woman ringing people up also said nothing to me, just looked at me.  I told her what I had ordered and she rang it in; the numbers appearing clearly on the back of the register.  I handed her a bill, she gave me my change, and I thanked her. But, she still said nothing.  It’s ok, I thought.  After all, they were super busy.  The sandwich will be worth it all. 

I went outside and found Jason.  He congratulated me on finally getting the sandwich.  We were both in anticipation as I opened the wrapper.  As I opened it, the smell of the ingredients came forth – bread, steak, peppers and cheese.  I bit into it.  After a few bites, Jason asked me how it was.  I thought for a moment about an answer, realizing that I just waited almost two hours for this piece of cultural phenomena.  “Well,” I hesitated, “It’s bread, steak, peppers and cheese.  That’s really it.”  Anyone could make it.  In fact, Cousins Subs has their own version of this, as likely do many others.  But if you order it from them, you wouldn’t consider it “the real deal.”  You’d consider it to be just bread, steak, peppers and cheese.   Unfortunately, that’s all any of them are.  I recalled my friend’s disappointment when I had previously told them I didn’t get the sandwich on my last trip to Philly.  Now I wondered why they felt this way.  Don’t get me wrong, the sandwich was good.  It just wasn’t anything beyond the simple ingredients it consisted of. But the hype, the history, and the legacy of this sandwich’s name implies a magical, perhaps mythical, edible that is the “be all, end all” of sandwiches.

The point of this story?  I’d never want people to experience this with my product.