WHEN NON-ADVERTISING PEOPLE ASK ME WHAT I'VE DONE that they might recognize, I can try mentioning my award-winning anti-teen pregnancy PSA (in case they were watching a lot of MTV at 3 in the morning around 1990), or a Hallmark print ad that (in theory) 100 million people saw in Parade. But stuff like that only draws a politely blank stare, mingled with disappointment that I don’t do the Budweiser Frogs.

That’s when I pull out my trump card—at least, what serves as a trump card among Chicagoans, all of whom know The Great Ace as the quintessential urban yuppie hardware and furnishings store. I say, “You know at the Great Ace, how they have that whole display of Weber barbecue grills?”


“You know those laminated sheets that hang off of them, telling you about all the features?”

Their eyes grow bigger. “You wrote those?”

Well, several years of new features and revisions ago. But I can still proudly claim the format and some of the bullet points. And suddenly my profession, which had seemed vaguely glamorous but completely nebulous (like being Special Assistant to the President), has become—okay, a lot more mundane than doing the Budweiser Frogs, but real.

The lesson? Well, be careful what you do hackwork for, for one; it may turn out to be what you’re hanging your hat on years later. Another: it’s the no-glamor stuff that may actually be the most useful to people. But the most important lesson I drew from my Weber experience is this: let the lighter fluid soak in a couple of minutes before you light it, and then let it burn off for at least 20 minutes before you put the food on, to get an even fire and the best flavor.


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