The day of the Kat…

So anyone vaguely aware of who Al Stewart is, you’ll know the song, the year of the cat. It’s a classic old hippy track and perfect for a post about Santa Cruz. And perfect for my latest working-hanging-out-and-drinking-buddy, the wickedly witty and gorgeous Kat Bernstam.

Soooo, as I’ve been advised to take things easy, I decided to take a long weekend after SES, San Jose to do some drinking, eating and hanging out in the sunshine.

But isn’t that exactly what you were doing in San Jose, Mike I hear you say. And the answer is?

Er… mmmm… er… No, this is a “different” kind of drinking, eating… mmmm… and apart from anything else…mind your own flipping business!!!

I’ve long had a desire to go and hang with the starry old hippies on Pacific Avenue and the beach boardwalk at Santa Cruz. The place is famous for surfing beach bums, silver colored, long haired hippies and the roar of the odd ancient Hell’s Angel reliving his youth, cruising a large beer-belly, tarnished earrings and grey beard at 1 mph.

It used to be such a big attraction, but its well past its glory days. There are so many beggars and weirdoes (so I fitted in very well πŸ™‚

On one occasion, on the boardwalk, I found myself sitting next to the most fucked-up weirdo I have ever met. He was very angry as he thought I had been taking his picture. So he came and plonked himself next to me on a bench and very aggressively told me he was going to confiscate my camera.

Now this guy was about 1000 years old, as thin as a stick insect and had some serious kind of tic. Not only that, his cologne was obviously directly from the “Urine for Men” range and his eyes looked like two piss holes in the snow. And he was threatening me!!!!!

It should feature in a movie. It’s a little sad though talking to some of these guys and having to tell them the Beatles split and Jimi Hendrix is actually dead. They seem to take this latest news very badly.

Anyway, why would I want to be in such less than salubrious company? Well I’m the same age and you should see how fit I look compared to these guys πŸ™‚

Actually, it’s something that goes back to my teens. Enough said.

The great thing is, it turns out that, my biz-dev partner at Acronym Media, Katerina Bernstam, happened to be in CA too. Kat’s parents live in Palo Alto, so she was on vacation (and on duty at SES too, I should add) and hanging around after the San Jose show.

So, I rolled down to Santa Cruz, parked myself at a bar and grill on the boardwalk right on the beach…

And then called Kat to come join me for a serious bout of doing nothing all day but eating and drinking on the boardwalk.

And so she did. And so we started our little, gently paced adventure. Which, leaping ahead, culminates with Kat politely declining an invitation to take part in a Mexican, drug induced, gang-bang in a seedy looking house, with a chap in the smelliest undershirt you can imagine (also fat, balding and perspiring profusely to add to his intimately charming manner).

But first, the very camera shy Ms Bernstam settled in with the first of many Mojitos to come. Learning just how stinking the service was (although great location) Kat discovered it was best to text the waiter 20 minutes in advance to order our drinks.

We sat and gazed along the beach as the waves and the drinks rolled in.

With much pushing, pulling and sheer brute force, I managed to get Kat out of her seat to pose a little. Well, you know how I’m desperately trying to get used to this new camera. And although dressed more for a snow storm in New York (which paid off perfectly later in the evening when the temperature went sub-zero) I got a couple of shots.

Hehe! Nice to make “you” the center of attention for a change!

And then we headed for… Wait for it… The world famous giant dipper, roller coaster and… ice cream! Naturally, with ice cream floating on an unspecified number of Mojitos between the two of us, we passed on the ride πŸ™‚

We started walking aimlessly away from the fairground and found ourselves lost in a slightly unsavoury neighbourhood. Of course, it’s always at these times you feel the need to… Pee!

And where is the public facility?


So we happen across something that looks like the local grocery store. Surely they would let a damsel in distress relieve herself?

No fucking chance.

I open the door and politely ask if they have a bathroom my friend can use… And they virtually reach for a gun to get me out of the store. No toilet they said. Shame, because the whole place smelt like one.

So taking one last attempt around the back of the building, we bump into Mr Personal-Charm himself. He says, sure we can use the bathroom… Mike first, of course. When I return from the crawling sewer it was, Kat grabbed me and whisked me back into the street at the speed of light. Are you sure you don’t need to go, I’m asking.

Later. I’ll tell you later… Just walk… Fast!

Yes, you know what happened while I was gone.

All was well, we found our way back to my hotel and then off for a wonderful dinner before she hit the road to Palo Alto.

Kat – thanks for keeping me company. It was a great day. You rock!

Of course, this left me on my own for the duration of my stay. What will I do tomorrow, I thought. Strange how something always comes along πŸ™‚


Back to New York for me.

SES, San Jose part two…

So after Brad and I drank San Jose dry it was time for an early night in bed… So early it was the next day, of course πŸ™‚

And stuff had to be done. Come on guys, it’s the biggest show of the year – let’s build a booth!

Once again, we were very orange and had lots of hand sanitizer to give away. The hand sanitizer is a very big deal with us Acronymmers. It’s not that we think our customers are trying to touch is with their dirty mitts. It’s because after the sponsor mixer when everyone has been eating appetizers with their fingers, we’re always closer than the rest rooms πŸ™‚

I always enjoy organizing a VIP get together of staff and industry big-wigs at the San Jose bash. This year we started at the Yahoo! gig at the Paragon in San Jose.

As you can see, it was very purple, as usual and they gave away many purpelly things including cocktails with ice cubes that lit up inside your drink.

And here’s me Marc and Steph from Acronym… Not drinking purpelly things.

After the Yahoo! bash was over, we headed to my favorite place ever in San Jose. Yes back to Santana Row and the wonderful Valencia Hotel.

We had drinks in the Cielo bar which sits right on the roof of the hotel. I’ve done lots of pics of that. But I’ve never seen one quite this artistic.

And much as it came from my camera, I certainly can’t take any credit for the shot. This was Andy Beal just messing around with my camera. That’s messing around? Andy that’s pure art. Are you sure you’re in the right job πŸ˜‰

And so, we moved downstairs to the wonderful Citrus restaurant. Here’s the crowd snugly tucked in the back of the restaurant (or front, depending which way you come in πŸ™‚

The delicious Kendall Allen has a curiously, curious look on her face making me think something curious, very curious, or even curiouser may have been going on.

It’s always nice to catch up with old friends at these events. There are always some great bits and bytes of great business advice. And there’s always “love you like a brother you old bastard…” type advice too πŸ˜‰ Me and my great pal Fredrick Marckini managed to catch up having missed each other at my own SES show in London.

It’s always good to get together with new people in the industry and this year (although they may have been around for years – new to me) Bob Tripathi from Discover Card and Amanda Yagi from MacMall.

And also with Amanda, Marix Marquez-TriviΓ±o from PCMall

Many gorgeous and handsome people attend these little soirees. And here’s the very gorgeous Mona Elesseily with the extraordinarily… er… handsome… er Mel Carson from Microsoft πŸ™‚

Friends abound and it was great to have uber-blogger and great old friend, Andy beal join the bash this year.

Afterwards it was great to catch up with my pal Matt Bailey.

And also have a snog with his beautiful wife, Stacy.

It’s a dirty job… But somebody has to do it πŸ˜‰

There was so much more and another million pictures, but I just don’t have enough time to squeeze them all in.

Thanks to everyone for making the SES, San Jose 2008 show such a great time and great success. See you all again for more of the same next year.

Roll on Chicago!

SES, San Jose part one…

So, time once again for the big show of the year. It’s SES, San Jose and this year I flew in from New York a day early to get in before the screaming hoards πŸ™‚ I actually had a private dinner appointment in San Francisco on the Saturday night before the show started.

It was interesting to note just how many people have started coming in early as I saw a number of regular speakers in the Marriott bar on Saturday night and quite a few at breakfast on Sunday morning.

There’s a whole lot of work goes into pulling this show together and it starts months before the event. So the first thing the Incisive team do when they arrive is what’s known as “the walk through.” This means they check the fruit of their labor ensuring that all of the rooms are set up and ready with all necessary audio-visual kit.

If you were at the show (any SES, for that matter) then you’ll recognize the folks in this shot. Without Kevin Ryan, Marilyn Crafts, Jackie Ortez and Stew Quealy there’d be no show. These guys are truly professional event organizers and I love them, each and everyone just like family.

Behind the scenes the show set up is like a military exercise. The stuffing of the bags alone takes an entire team stuffing books and show guides and flyers and pens and freebies.

This year saw the launch of the SES awards. And I’m hugely proud of our analytics team at Acronym as we picked up the award for best use of analytics. Go team!!!

The keynotes and Orion panels take place in the largest room in the convention centre. Here all of the industry superstars get to… Threaten the paparazzi!

Matt McGowan says “get that camera out mah face sucker or yoo gonna find out how hard it is to pick up your teeth with broken fingers…”

Absolutely not! Matt is one of the nicest guys on the entire planet. He couldn’t resist geting in front of the camera to practise his moves once he’s elected president of America.

Of course, he was immediately followed by his eminence, Kevin Ryan who also needed to know how you look on a movie screen.

Once the walk through was a completed I slipped off to Santana Row with my buddy from Acronym, Brad Neelan. I like to hang with Brad, he’s very cool and very laid back.

And a bit of live jazz in the background certainly created a very casual atmosphere.

So Sunday afternoon in the sunshine with a glass or two of shampoo was definitely order of the day. But the Sangria also looked very nice.

Swiftly followed by the shampoo πŸ™‚

Yes, monkey see, monkey do πŸ™‚

And Newcastle got the season off to a good start with a 1-1 draw with Man U at Old Trafford. What a great day!

SES, San Jose part two in the making!

A New York writers ClickZ get together…

It’s not very often that I get a chance to get together with my fellow ClickZ writers. In fact, although we all know of each other, very few of us have actually met each other in person. So when my editor Erin Brenner knew she was going to be in town at ClickZ HQ, she invited the NYC based writers to hook up for a beer and a bite last night.

It turns out that, some ClickZ writers are multi-talented. Such as Jack Aaronson, who beyond being a conversion guru also plays a mean show tune on piano. So we started the night at a small cafe called Marie’s Crisis where Jack sits at his piano surrounded by musical tune loving folks warbling their tonsils along with him.

Then we moved onto a nice local eatery called Chow Bar.

At the table (from the right), my dear friend Rebecca Lieb, Copy Chief Erin Brenner (my ever so talented editor), Mr Digital Strategies himself, Lee Huang . And just peeking out at the back Jeffery Eisenberg and opposite his brother Bryan, bestselling authors and online marketers extraordinaire. Next up, leading interactive marketing consultant Heidi Cohen and ClickZ executive editor Anna Maria Virzi . And no, Dana “Red” Todd, hasn’t joined ClickZ. But she happened to be in town and we love her very much.

Thanks Anna Maria for pulling it all together. A very nice night was had by all.


Weekends, good friends and Riverside Park…

I spoke to Tatiana today (well, I do most days, actually) and she told me that she now understands a bit more what my life on the road is really like. Y’see, she moved to Geneva, Switzerland, last weekend (as I came back to New York) and she’s had two weekends on her own. She has four more months there before she can go back to Newcastle and I think she won’t make it, to be honest. She loves her house and being around her own stuff too much. And she’s already homesick. Plus, she’s so worried about me.

When I was back in the UK, I had a heart attack. It wasn’t the first, in fact. It appears that I’ve actually had three, so I’m told. But because I’m asymptomatic (I didn’t have any of the usual signs so wasn’t aware that I was having heart attacks) I just wrote the first two off to a bad reaction to Jameson’s whisky!

The first two were here in the US. I collapsed in the subway on the way back to my apartment the day before I headed back to the UK. But the last one was almost perfect… I had it in the doctor’s surgery! So, I was rushed into hospital where I spent a few days as sick as a dog because of the clash of drugs I had to be administered.

Anyway, I’m back on my feet and back at work and not about to start thinking I’m ill. And that’s what worries Tatiana. She thinks I should have stayed in the UK to rest up a bit more. But, y’know, I’m absolute crap at doing nothing. I have to have something going on or I die of boredom in 4.2 seconds.

So, Geneva has been having a cultural period celebrating Russian…er… Russian something-or-other. And last night it ended with a fabulous firework display on the lake. My wife had a fabulous view of the whole thing and thoroughly enjoyed the Russian atmosphere around (although she’s quite pissed with the whole Georgia thing, it has to be said). But she told me that it was very hard to really enjoy something so spectacular when you’re on your own. A bit like a huge erection, I suppose.

Well, I’m very lucky, in that, I have such great friends here in New York. And they need neither fireworks nor erections to pop round an keep me company. I spend a lot of time at the Boathouse in Central park It’s a nice spot. But it’s very touristy and weddingy (people getting married). So, when the ever so debonair Matt McGowan (a neighbour just a few blocks away) told me that Riverside Park had been all spruced up, I thought I should take a peek. After all, it’s only one block away from me.

It’s wonderful!

So, it’s my new place to hang out. That being the case I went there Saturday afternoon, to a great little cafe on the pier at 72nd for a pitcher of refreshingly fruity Sangria.

And there’s only one thing that makes a beautiful summer day on the river with a pitcher of Sangria even better… Having some of your best pals around.

The legendary internet marketer who is Larry Chase (and best buddy) was in town. And no less legendary (or friend) Rebecca Lieb joined for a wonderful Mediterranean lunch followed by drinks in the park.

This cafe/bar is wonderful and literally a five minute walk from where I live.

I can’t quite figure out why the woman in the front of the shot (a complete stranger) felt she had to hide herself. Does your husband read this blog honey? Should you have been somewhere else? And the guy on the right who looks like he fell straight off the ceiling most certainly had been drinking Sangria πŸ™‚

The pier is very long and gives great views of the river, New Jersey and all the water sports going on.
Larry and I decided to walk up to the boat basin on 79th Street. Larry had once considered buying a boat and living there. What a lovely old hippy he is πŸ™‚

There’s actually a fabulous (mainly tourist free) cafe/bar at the boat basin… And it’s called… Wait for it… The Boat Basin Cafe!

It sits right over the river and has a great atmosphere right now, in Summer. You should go there when you’re in New York. But shush!! Don’t tell the tourists πŸ™‚

A very talented, young New York artist…

My life would be a totally unorganized mess were it not for the hugely professional and organized super Executive Assistant at Acronym Media, Julian Lesser.

Now I’ve known for some time that Julian has a very creative streak. He talks from time-to-time about his studio and his art. But up until today, I’d had no sight of any of it. Today, Julian’s personal web site went live with a showing of just some of his work. And it’s fabulous!

If you want to see the work of a truly talented, young New York artist, take a look at Julian’s site right now. And you may want to consider this. If you buy some of his work now… It could be worth fortunes in the future πŸ˜‰

Cork and Cobh, Ireland…

Next weekend, Tatiana and I will be going our separate ways for about four or five months. Purely job related, I hasten to add. Earlier this year I had to make New York my main base. And following her fantastic new promotion, from next weekend, Tatiana will move to Geneva, Switzerland to live. And I shall return to Manhattan.

So, I thought a final weekend trip away was in order before the big move. As my family are from Ireland, I’m always keen to take any opportunity to pay a visit. And although my family are actually from County Sligo, I thought, for a change, we’d go to County Cork.

The fact that the John Jameson Irish whisky distillery is there, or that Murphy’s stout is brewed there as is Beamish stout did not factor at all into my suggestion for us to spend the weekend there πŸ™‚

We stayed at the swanky Jury’s Hotel sitting right on the river. We had a suite at the back of the hotel with huge floor to ceiling windows. I took a quick shower to freshen up and then walked out of the bathroom over to the picture windows to admire the view. Here, I stood naked for a while drying my hair with a towel admiring the woods and the small waterfall upstream.

And as my eyes followed the shape of the river back towards the hotel… I spotted four fishermen tucked away on the riverbank below, pointing and laughing uncontrollably!

Please feel free to take a second to delete that thought from your memory forever.

Moving on…

Cork city is a bustling place and we had a wonderful traditional lunch at a place called Scotts sitting outside on Caroline Street. And in the evening we had drinks downtown and then returned to the hotel for dinner and some traditional Irish music.

But what I was really looking forward to was spending the day in Cobh (pronounced “cove”). This is a pretty little seaside town on Great Island, once known as Queenstown.

And this is where the history of Irish emigrants to America begins. Annie Moore, the first Irish emigrant to be processed on Ellis Island set sail from here. It has a strong naval and seagoing connection. But tinged with sadness. Not only was Queenstown the last port of call for the “safest liner in the world” when the Titanic set sail for the final leg of her maiden journey, it’s the port where the Lusitania was sunk. The ship was sunk off Kinsale in 1915 by a German submarine (an action that would bring the Unites States into the great war).

The town has a memorial to the victims in the square.

It’s a pretty place. I like the way they paint their houses and stores in different colors.

Of course, as it was also a Victorian holiday resort, you can see all of the Victorian influences.

We took a climb up the steep hill to take a peek at St Coleman’s cathedral. However, it’s still a working a church and a funeral was taking place, so no viewing today for me, thank you.

The view over the town is quite nice from the cathedral. And shows how the town has kept its association with seagoing. With one of the deepest natural docks in Europe, Cobh still plays host to the world’s luxury liners. The Grand Princess from Miami was in port and dwarfing the town with her presence.

There’s a very quaint Victorian promenade.

And er, this… Don’t ask, I have no idea!

We had the most superb Sunday lunch at the Watersedge Hotel Where, as you can tell, sitting out on the deck, we had a pretty good view of the Grand Princess. And with home being Miami for this liner… There were more Americans in town than Irish!

All in all, a wonderful weekend. Wonder when I’ll see my wife next πŸ™‚


The Pope, PageRank and linking…

A few people have dropped me a note about an article at SEOmoz where the writer used an analogy of the Pope and PageRank.

Funny, I’ve used that analogy at just about every conference I’ve spoken at since 2005 when the previous Pope died.

Maybe I should sign up to SEOmoz after all…

Welcome to the new talent of the search marketing world!

It’s so wonderfully refreshing to have people come out of nowhere and embrace this seemingly mystical world of SEO.

At Acronym Media, we’re delighted to have brand new talent come to work with us. And this year, we have so many talented interns, I simply can’t get around enough to photograph and mention them all.

So, Christina Lee, sits the closest to me. She joined the marketing team at Acronym a few weeks back. And I can assure you, under the pressure that Norm Elrod and John Lee have to work under (our extraordinarily talented top tier marketing guys), she’s taking to it like a true pro.

Well done Christina. You’re doing a great job. And I think I can speak for Norm and John. You are so welcome on board.

As are all of the wonderfully enthusiastic interns who joined the company recently.

Do well all and stay. This is a great place to work πŸ˜‰

July 4th weekend, Long Island and a truly good friend…

(This post comes with an apology to any professional photographer who may be taking a peek. As a complete amateur photographer – just a snapper, really – I’m having a hard time trying to get used to my newly pimped-up camera. I’m working on it!)

To say that I get homesick sometimes would certainly be an understatement. I’m very much settled now at my second home on the upper west side here in New York. However, I miss my wife and family desperately sometimes. So when a friend recognizes that you need a break from big-city life and a little down home comfort, I really, really do appreciate it.

It’s only a few weeks since my buddy Kevin Ryan invited me to come stay over with his folks upstate New York on our big road trip from New York to Toronto. In between, I flew to the other side of the planet for ad:tech, Singapore. And this weekend, being the long 4th July holiday weekend, I wasn’t much looking forward to another weekend doing exciting stuff like my laundry and tidying up my apartment.

So I was totally blown away, when my buddy, the ever charming, ever debonair Matt McGowan, invited me to join him with his folks on Long Island for the weekend.

Many people who tune into this blog from time-to-time will surely know Matt. He’s the big marketing brain behind the Search Engine Strategies shows. And this is not the first time my dear friend has helped me out.

Earlier this year during SES, London I lost my wallet. I was due on stage for an Orion panel and I was completely stressed. Matt, being the pro that he is, knew that I’d be a lot better on stage if the wallet problem was solved. So duly, he took me back to the hotel and retraced my steps from the night before, eventually finding my wallet… In my jacket pocket. Well that’s the last place you look… Right?


Moving on…

So Matt invited me, along with a group of Aussies (more later) to stay over the weekend at his parent’s beach house on Long Beach. It was just fantastic! Such a wonderful place, wonderful parents and wonderful Aussie company. I mean nice, nice, nice people.

A real highlight for me was getting to know Matt’s pop, Vince. This is a truly stand-up guy. A Vietnam vet with the most amazing background. He wields wisdom and wit with the style and grace of a Ninja swordsman.

So what’s the first thing you do when you get to a beach house on Long Beach? You head to the sea with a crate of beer, of course!

In the pic above we have Matt, along with (from the left) Aussies Chris (mega-brain strategist with Grey Group), Lauren (senior account manager with Leo Burnett and my new life saving wine doctor), Bianca (new superstar at Beyond Interaction and wildly interesting partner of one Matt McGowan) and world-class award winning chef Adam (most recently in the kitchen of Per Se but more often in Lauren’s kitchen, no doubt πŸ™‚

I stretched my imagination as far as it could go to figure out why Long Beach was called Long Beach… And then it came to me in a blinding flash… It’s long

Yes, they don’t call me the man with a mind like a steel trap for nothing, y’know!

And so, I regaled the group with my exciting and hilarious stories about search engine algorithms, to the point they all seemed to pass out with thrilling information overload. Well, that’s how I saw it, anyway.

Meanwhile, Chris and Matt decided that the rain on the beach just wasn’t doing it for them and totally drenched is what they needed. None of this “I think my shirt is a little damp” stuff. But the real get-nekkid and jump in the Atlantic stuff!

And what do handsome boys, beautiful girls and little, fat, old Englishmen need after a hard day’s work on the beach?


BIG dinner!

And heading up the table… No, not Vince, I’m talking about the real boss, Matt’s totally gorgeous Mom, Brenda. When one is serving up a meal to guests which include a world-class chef some may have a little trepidation. But not Brenda, she fearlessly served up a dinner that was in a class of its own (OK, Vince took charge of barbecuing the meat – joint effort!)

Dinner over and with more wine and invigorating conversation – what next? More booze, beach and bonfire, of course. And then get a world-class chef to… toast marshmallows! (Look out French Laundry, you have no idea what’s new on the menu next week!)

As my newly monstrous camera has taken on a life of its own and I’m still trying to tame the beast, the flash on the pic above had people in Brooklyn blinking! But without, it looked more like this. I was there, I know.

Next morning, Brenda tries to convince me to ride a bicycle with her and Vince down the boardwalk. I have no interest until she tells me there’s a bar at the end of the boardwalk (and fish and chip bar, no less). Guess who got there first πŸ™‚

Could we squeeze anything else in on this wonderfully chilled and relaxed weekend? Over to you Matt.

“Why don’t we do Jordan’s Lobster Bar for lunch” he says. They have both Lobster AND beer, Mike.

Okay, where’s my bike!

And so, we all pile into the car and head to Jordan’s.

Brenda just happens to mention that female lobster is the best. But how does one know which is female and which is not asks the so inquisitive Bianca? Wait and see which rest room they use?

Oh no, just flip them on their back and take a look. Hardly gentlemanly (although some women may disagree) but it works. As I was standing at the back I surely have no idea what part of the lobster anatomy they were scrutinizing (and don’t care to think about it much either)

The perfect end to a perfect weekend!

Matt, Vince, Brenda, Bianca, Lauren, Adam, Chris thank you all sooooo much for such a wonderful time.