Smugglers' Inn started as a theme restaurant in Blaine, Minnesota and has become, if not a legitimate advertising agency, then a viable agency alternative with two dedicated ad employees, Carol Henderson, art director and Jarl Olsen, copywriter. Read the whole saga in these posts or click the pirate to follow the entertaining tweets of our dishwasher, Pongo. Who may or may not be an orangutan.!/PongoTryHard

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Smug's on drugs.

This is our Thanksgiving story.  Sorry.s
“Wugga-mugga! By the tits of Saint Agatha, I’m trollied! Bandersnatch! Rostrum, nostrum, Bostrum...MEIN FUEHRER, DER LEIBENSTRAUBEN IST BURNINGK!”

Carol held up a fist to bump; these were the first intelligible words that the human-shaped lump in the back seat had uttered in well over an hour.  Carol, my co-manager and co-creative director at Smugglers’ Inn, had had the inspired idea to hit Starbuck’s drive-through before giving in to temptation and dumping Bucket Boy outside the E.R. of Coon Rapids General and retreating.

“Shy of a syringe of Haldol,” Carol stated, ”caffeine is the best thing you can give someone who is experiencing a psychotic reaction to anti-psychotic drug.” 

I resisted the temptation to say, “And you outta know!”  The truth was, all three of us had ingested the same drug earlier in the evening.  While I wasn’t an incoherent, incontinent mess with pupils like pinwheels, neither was I the happy clam that my day manager seemed to be.  As I took a hand off the steering wheel to bump fists with Carol, the 4-runner veered across the center line, eliciting a long “HONK!” from a passing Chevy Tahoe that I had not even seen.

“Jesus!” I said.

“Wept!” said the lump in the back seat.

“The coffee is working,” proclaimed Carol. “See?”

I didn’t.  I re-occupied the right lane and dropped the 4-runner’s speed to a stately 48 MPH.  I was going nowhere and in no hurry to get there.

Are you following along, reader?  I’m afraid that if I back up far enough to give you a complete accounting of the events that led to me driving about on a school night with our day manager and a hallucinating Irish national with no legal status, you would simply stop reading.  Besides, I am drowsy (a common side-effect of Flumoxatal).  Suffice it to say, America’s favorite restaurant-cum-ad agency had taken it in the shorts when we’d lost our only paying client, the 2017 St. Paul Winter Para-olympic games.  Some philanthropist from Aspen had dashed the city of St. Paul’s hopes of hosting the competition, along with our hopes of ever getting paid.  The Saint Paul Winter para-olympic committee disbanded, leaving Smugglers’ Inn, the agency of record, on the hook for a video shoot and miscellaneous expenses amounting to four grand.  Which Smugglers’ Inn did not have.  Suggestions, anyone?

“Pharma is the new dot-com,” had declared my co-manager, Carol, (who really is crazy and doesn’t just play a crazy person on TV). Carol felt that it was high time Smugglers’ Inn snagged one of these fat ethical drug accounts and didn’t she have just the drug?

“Fludoxipole?” I was reluctant to pitch any piece of business before I could pronounce it.

“Flu-mox-ah-TALL,” Carol corrected.  “Or “Fluffies”. 

I don’t know how Carol got us into the Flumoxatal pitch without even submitting a statement of capabilities to Glaxo Smith Kline, Flumoxatal’s manufacturer.  She is on a first-name basis with a surprising number of business heavies, a benefit from years of volunteering at PGA golf events. 

“We’re pitching in 9 days,” Carol had informed me this morning. “We’re going 2nd.”  We would be pitching against two pharma agencies.  Their names were not being disclosed to us, but it was safe to assume each was an in-house agency for Glaxo, who have the reputation of being dicks about conflicts of interest.

“Before we do anything, I think we should experience this drug for ourselves.  Dr. Pants was good enough to provide some samples.”  As Carol said this, she was shaking out two pills each for herself and me and one for Scotty.  Scotty’s real name is Ian.  He hails from Derry, in Ireland, but countless customers had remarked that that Ian sounds like Scotty from Star Trek and at Smugglers’ Inn, the customer is always right.  Scotty came to us by way of an Irish seating hostess who had worked at Smuggler’s Inn for about an hour and a half in 2015.  Scotty’s third name is Lazy MF and while the man is barely passable as a bartender, he is one world-class liar.  Carol and I thought we might employ Scotty’s blarney-spewing skills in our upcoming presentation, where the two of us would feel constrained to exaggerating our experience and not craft case histories out of whole cloth.  It was a gamble. 

“Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of sheep and other animals!  Jaysuz, I need to find a bog.”

“Was that from a movie?”  asked Carol, talking over some nonsensical chittering from the back seat that, upon reflection, might have been Irish.

“James Joyce.”  I’d recognized the first line of the 2nd Chapter of Ulysses. “Not the part about finding a bog.”

“What does it mean?”

“It means Scotty isn’t going to piss himself in my backseat twice.”

“Dr. Pants says that only one in eight subjects has a negative reaction to Fluffies,” Carol announced. “That compares to one in four for Thorazine.”

Again, more good news.  After the summer we’d had, I was counting every blessing.  Not only had our advertising division lost its only paying client, but Smugglers’ Inn, the restaurant, had been under-performing.  July and August saw some of the most dismal table counts in our 40-year history.  What hurt more, though, was losing our popular dishwasher and marketing strategist, Pongo.  Pongo had failed to return after leaving to assist with earthquake relief in his native Sumatra.  His ticket had been subsidized with donations from our entire staff and we were, frankly, expecting to get something for our money in the form of regular reports from the field.  After one email sent from a kiosk in the Jakarta airport to say he had arrived, though, Pongo had gone black. 

“Crap,”  I said.

“What’s crap?”

“We could really use Pongo on this.” 

Carol sighed. “He really relates to people in pain. Do you know if he’s coming back? ”

I didn’t.  And I don’t.  Is Pongo even alive?  Might he return in time to save our asses on this pitch?  How long can we keep putting off the creditors?  Will baking soda remove the smell of urine from car upholstery? Questions.

“Safeway,” Carol said, pointing out the window. “They’ve got restrooms. Should we...?”

“--For fook’s sake, pull in, will you?” came a voice from the back seat.  “What was in that pill Carol?  I feel like I’ve downed three pints of lager, absent the feeling good part.”

“The Spirolactone in Flumoxatol is a diuretic.”

“SO love when you talk dirty, Carlotta.  Scoot up to the front, will you?  Time is of the essence.”

“Scotty’s back!”  I announced. “He’s gone through the Flumoxatol worm hole and come out the other side with all atoms re-aligned flush-left.”  Being around Scotty has the effect of making me try and make my own speech as colorful as an Irishman’s.  As you see, I only embarrass myself. 

“Yes, well, “back” might be a BIT of an an overstatement.  Help me find the door handle, will you, beautiful?”

I threw the car in “park” and Carol walked around to open Scotty’s door.  Scotty got to his feet, exposing the wet patch on his Khaki pants.  He steadied himself, like a man on the deck of a ship.

“You going to be OK?” Carol said, putting a hand on Scotty’s back.

“Actually, I’m a bit rocky.  Would you mind coming in and aiming for me?”

“Go!” Carol shouted, pointing to Safeway’s automatic doors. (Carol points a lot).  Scotty sprinted into the store on sure legs, a broad grin on his face.

“Asshole!” Carol said.  But she was smiling. 

Scotty came out several minutes later toting a six-pack of Heinekin.  If he had tried to clean up in the bathroom, it didn’t show.

“Right, then!  Flumoxidol.  I think our tagline should be, “Never, never mix this shit with Ketamine.”

“Ketamine?”  Carol’s eyes widened.  “What’s Ketamine.”

“Driver, onward,” said Scotty, cracking a beer. “For the night is young.”

“And full of terrors,” Carol added.

The night was young, but all the sweaty-palmed terror had gone out of it, along with any fun.  I drove (slowly) to a nearby park where Scotty could drink himself sober without me losing my license.  Carol and I tossed out a few marketing ideas for Flumoxidol, while Scotty shouted, “Brilliant!” and “Fooking genius!” to everything.  It was no good, though.  The lingering effect of the drug was to make the world seem slowed-down and non-threatening.  This may be what you want in an anti-psychotic, but I was missing my writing companions, ego, paranoia and fear of failure.  We had experienced the client’s product.  That, and the three of us sitting through “Fifty Shades Darker” at the Coon Rapids Cinemart would have to stand for the evening’s achievements.  Actually, Scotty did have one inspired marketing idea, which was to parter with the studios who make chick flicks. 

“You have a fookin’ big bin of fluffies next to the 3-D glasses and a sign that reads:  Men, we realize that you will be quite bored for the next 120 minutes, so here is a free sample of Flumoxidil by Glaxo somebody or other to make the time go and by the by, if she asks, tell her you liked the part where they made love in the rain the best.  And fer fook’s sake don’t say “screwed”.”

I can’t speak for Carol, but I, for one, am looking forward to nine days from now.  How could these clients not go with us over some no-rep pharma shop?  We are Smugglers’ Inn, America’s restaurant/ad agency.  We are gonzo marketers.  We have a liquor license.

Yes, Carol and I will wow ‘em with Power-point presentation #3 (our best) while Scotty charms one and all with his color commentary.  Should things go irretrievably pear-shaped, we’ll whip out a chart showing how we propose to expand Flumoxidol’s market share using a pre-existing network of drug dealers, bikers and corrupt DEA agents.   Maybe we'll smoke up some Flumoxidol right there, just to prove that it can be done.  I’m tired now, like I said.  Happy Thanksgiving, Dr. Pants, wherever you are.