Drug Deal

I’m on a press trip in Puerto Rico this week, as mentioned earlier, and it’s been sorta tough to get any blogging done. The perfect sunlight tends to, um, make too much glare on the laptop’s screen. Yeah, that’s it.

Anyway, this morning, before heading out to the beach from my most excellent hotel, I trawled through the news and performed my usual morning info-ablutions, courtesy of CaribeNet‘s high-speed network ($14.95/day charged to the room, but it’s a necessary business expense, since the business center downstairs charges $25/HOUR (!) for net access.

During that time, I read Derek Lowe’s recent blog entry (Pfizer’s Shell Game) on the Pfizer/Pharmacia merger. Derek’s blog (In The Pipeline) is a great venue to get an idea of what’s going on in the intersection of drug development, business, and culture. I liked it so much in its previous incarnation (Lagniappe), that I asked Derek to contribute a regular column to my magazine, Contract Pharma. The first time we paid him is when I realized that Derek Lowe is NOT a pseudonym, and that he had no particular interest in the #2 pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.

I appreciated Derek’s entry today, not least because I tried writing a pair of editorials (I’ll post them when I’m back in NJ) in that vein about a year ago, when several major mergers were being floated in Big Pharma. Derek seems to have hit the nail on the head in the fundamental fallacy of Bigger-Pharma-Is-Better-Than-Big-Pharma: throwing more money at R&D doesn’t make your rate of success increase (and it may just slow down drug development).

Every industry goes through phases of major consolidation and, in some respects, Pharma (and Biopharma) has actually gotten to it much more slowly. The FTC and other groups make sure that no company has too large a share of the Pharma industry, forcing companies to sell of drugs in fields where it might otherwise dominate. I don’t have the numbers in front of me to determine the new Pfizer/Pharmacia’s market share (and I’m too lazy to look it up), but I’d bet it’s less than 15%.

What the merger seems to be about, coming so shortly on the heels of Pfizer’s 2000 acquisition of Warner-Lambert, is covering up short-term R&D problems by buying another drug pipeline. In my editorials on the subject, I talked about this concept, and how it just can’t work in the long term. At some point, there’s going to be no-one to acquire with a meaningful pipeline, and the burden of integrating tens of thousands of new employees is going to wreck the organization.

The question I had then, and still have, is this: Does sales-and-marketing mean more to Pfizer than research-and-development? It’s a tricky question, because without new drugs there’d be nothing to sell, but it could easily be argued that Pfizer bought Pharmacia because it was tired of co-marketing Celebrex (and its successors) and wanted to get the total share of the profits (and perhaps maximize them beyond the efforts of the two separate companies).

The fundamental point of Contract Pharma, is this: If you don’t do something very well (that is, as a core competency), pay someone else to do it. Otherwise you’re just wasting resources that can be focused on what you do best. It’s long been stated that what Big Pharma does best is develop drugs, and sell them. I’m just wondering which one’s more important to them.

The Here and Now of the Immensity

Spoke to Paul West earlier (and, for a brief moment, his lovely wife, Diane Ackerman), to make sure we were on the same page regarding his new novel, The Immensity of the Here and Now. At present, I’m wrapping up the process of selecting a printer. This is the first time Voyant has put out a hardcover release, and that’s a different proposition than making paperbacks. The plan is to combine printing of both hardcover and paperback (with the paperback going on sale a year or so after the hardcover), so as to keep overall costs down (even though I need to put out the capital to print the paperbacks that will sit unsold for a year).

Estimates from the dozen or so printers I’ve solicited range from $X to $XX (I don’t want to give away too much info). I mean, there’s literally a 100% range between the bottom and top bids. In fact, the highest bid comes from a company that always sends ridiculously high bids. It’s strange, because this company really goes out of its way to advertise how it handles short runs, sends nice sales materials, and makes plenty of followup calls. But this is the 4th straight job where they’ve come in thousands of dollars above anyone else, with no particular value added. At this point, I included them in the bidding process sort of as a joke.

But, since I now have a pretty good idea of the costs, I’m pretty confident in the cover price that the hardcover is going to carry. This is important because, without it, I can’t send out promotional materials to bookstores, reviewers, etc. Now I can finish up the layout of the book itself, and send it out to a print-on-demand company to make 50 uncorrected proofs of the book. These can then get mailed out to the aforementioned reviewers, as well as people we hope will provide early blurbs for the book.

[Meanwhile, Mr. West will go over one of the uncorrected proofs and turn it into a corrected proof, sometime before July, when I plan to send the final book to the printer (at which time I’m going to need to have a cover design ready for both HC and PB versions: eek!)]

All this needs to get done by the end of the week, since I’m leaving for a business trip/vacation on Saturday to Puerto Rico. I’ve never been there, but it sure oughtta be nicer than hanging out in Jersey all month.

Spring Fling

[There used to be a slideshow that accompanied this post, but my old ISP went down and took all my files with it. Stupidly, I never backed that stuff up. Oh, well. Them’s the virtual memories. . .]

Sitting on the PATH train into NYC from Hoboken, I look into my overnight bag and see a bottle of Tanqueray and a full prescription of Vicodin. I thought, “Wow, if I had some grass and a bottle of ether, I’d feel like Hunter S. Thompson’s intern!”

Friday was, to put it mildly, an eventful episode of The Gil Show. I had the day off from work (thanks, Christendom), but was suffering pretty mightily from an gum infection around one of my wisdom teeth. It’d been going on since Monday, but I was too macho/stupid to go to a dentist (there are two about 20 feet from my apartment). So, by Friday morning, I was suffering insanely from this pain, thinking, “Y’know, Gil, this is how They got David Lindsay.” Because that’s how I think, alright?

Went to one of the dentists at 9am. She got me an antibiotic prescription and told me to get back to her office at 1pm, so she could cut out a fold of my gum and clean out the area. I did so, and got to have Fun with Novocain, which I haven’t experienced since around 1987 (I don’t go to dentists much, unless it’s an emergency). Then she handed me a prescription for Vicodin. Before the minisurgery, I told her, “I plan on drinking pretty abusively this evening; is that a problem?”

“No. But don’t take the Vicodin if you’re drinking. And don’t drive or operate any heavy machinery when you’re taking the Vicodin.”

“Not even my forklift?” I asked, despite not owning one.

I was a bit worried about missing out on the evening, in which I planned to go to NYC to:

a) see one of my favorite singers perform;

b) attend my friends’ Spring Fling party (despite the 40 degree weather); and

c) get absolutely annihilated on gin & tonic and have some fun conversation with people I don’t get to see often.

Even though it wasn’t a huge amount of dental work, I was pretty wiped out by late afternoon. Didn’t feel like trying to eat anything solid, so I had an Atkins strawberry shake. Problem was, my mouth was still numb from the Novocain, which led to that curious sensation of drinking something and having no idea how much was in my mouth. It was pretty freaky.

The numbness wore off while I was driving to Hoboken, where I took the aforementioned PATH train to the 14th St. stop. It was a block away from the home of my friends who were throwing the party. I wanted to drop off the overnight bag (with “springtime clothing” for later in the evening) before getting some dinner and listening to some music.

Walked from their place on 13th St. to Crosby St., a block into SoHo. Not having eaten, I began getting some pretty intense chills, which worried me a bit, given that it was only 6:30 and I was planning for a pretty long night. The venue for the gig wasn’t open when I got there, so I went to an Australian restaurant called Eight Mile Creek, and ordered the soup of the day. It took awhile, so I ordered up a G&T, which meant I probably wouldn’t be having any Vicodin that evening.

Thing is, without the Novocain, I was back to experiencing some pretty intense pain in my mouth and my right ear. It hurt terribly to open my mouth much, and yawning was agony. Not fun. So I slurped my soup pretty ravenously, not having eaten for about 10-11 hours. Drank my gin. Saw Michael Imperioli walk down the sidewalk (because it’s New York, that’s why).

After that, I headed over to the gig, which was at a used bookstore that functions as a fundraiser for homeless people with AIDS. Do you call them AIDS patients? AIDS sufferers? AIDS victims? Every term carries a certain set of connotations, and I’m not sure which ones are inappropriate. I don’t personally know anyone with AIDS, although I recently published one of Samuel Delany’s novels on the subject (as well as a collection of his letters from 1984, a time when AIDS was still pretty much unidentified and wreaking havoc in parts of the queer community).

The gig was a triple-bill, but I was only there to see the first performer, a singer named Lori Carson. I first heard Lori’s singing back in 1994, when I lived in Annapolis and WHFS was a great indy (or Alter Native) radio station. She was with a band called the Golden Palominos, a rotating lineup sorta thing, led by a guy with the great name of Anton Fier. She sang on two GP records (which I consider two of the greatest get-it-on albums of all time, if you’re into a techo-rock-sex-funk vibe), then went off to do solo records. I have a tough time describing her voice, so let’s let these guys do it instead:

“…a super-high range that gives the effect of a young girl on helium…”

“…breathy, delicate vocals…”

“…a rawness beneath its soprano highs that make her songs resonate and tremble — she’s an unaffected singer who sounds like the bitter kid sister Joni Mitchell never had…”

The bookstore was SRO by the time I arrived. But the caf” area was open, and they were serving soup, which made me happy, since I was still afraid to risk solid food. So I noshed, bantered with a couple of women who were in a songwriting workshop that Lori Carson run out near her place in Long Island, and was given a second-row seat when the organizers decided to lift the “reserved” tags from those seats.

One thing about Lori Carson, and I don’t mean it in any looks-biased way, is that she photographs REALLY well, and doesn’t look as good in person. The proof of this is the cover of “Everything I Touch Runs Wild,” which has some pretty glamorous photography. In the flesh, she’s much earthier, though still strangely beautiful. I saw her play a few years ago at some music festival sponsored by Intel (ha-HA! No link for you!). Only about a dozen people came that night. Probably about 30-40 people at gig Friday (although some may”ve been there for the other acts).

She played a stylish-looking electric guitar, accompanied by an acoustic guitarist named Paul Pimsler. They only had about half an hour to play, so she only got in 6 or 7 songs. Most were recent, quiet, acoustic folk tunes. But she also played two older pieces: the title song to her second album, “Where It Goes,” and the very first song I ever heard her sing, “Little Suicides.”

I love certain pieces of art in a way that I don’t really understand. I think it might border on nostalgia (not a joy, but a having had joy). It was only in January, when I spent my birthday wandering through the Frick and the Met, staring at works by Rembrandt, that I started examining this feeling. A particular painting at the Frick, a self-portrait, caught me off guard. I was elated, looking at it, but the feeling more than just that of seeing a beautiful painting. It was like seeing an old friend, and perhaps it reflected the feeling of who I was in that moment of seeing Rembrandt the first time (the first Rembrandt picture I remember seeing (except for that cigar box one) was a philosopher meditating, on the cover of Gershom Scholem’s book on Kabbalah (not this edition, but a remaindered one that I bought years ago)). I’m not sure how to characterize that peculiar joy.

But I felt something similar when Lori started playing “Little Suicides” that night. “It happens in the smallest ways / It happens all the time . . .” she sang, and I was just transported, shedding years, remembering joy. (That last phrase puts me in mind of the closing lines from one of my favorite movies, where the narrator asks, “Is a memory something you have, or something you’ve lost?”)

The other old tune, “Where It Goes,” always made me think of a girl from college whom I knew as my One True Ex (you’ll have to find her tree in this forest). Our relationship, even when we were both involved with others long-term, was a strange affair. It was like a tango in which one of the partners is absent. For most of a decade, we continued to dance without the other. By the time we finally met again, we’d each become so familiar with our own steps that the other one seemed alien to us. The realities of who we’d become were not only superfluous to our dream-lives, they were inimical. And so we rapidly crumbled.

(Also, she was batshit and petty, and the last time we spent together was absolutely misery-inducing.)

But I thought of our old feelings while Lori sang, “I don’t know where it comes from / I don’t know where it goes / But clearly it’s going, gone / It’s time to let it / Time to move on…”

Then Lori was done singing, and I left for the party. I should write more about that, but the details are already a little vague (and somewhat boring). The things to know are:

a) I stuck with Tanqueray and tonic, eschewing the Vicodin;

b) One of my best friends came (at my invite), met people, and got hit on;

c) I impressed a girl by being able to discuss Churchland’s emergent principles of consciousness while personally bordering on unconsciousness;

d) I spent time in the company of friends, which always brings me joy;

e) I spoke the words, “Dude, I couldn’t stand up right now if you paid me”;

f) I put on a pair of bunny ears and tried to make a cartoony expression that REALLY didn’t photograph well; and

g) I got back to my friend’s place at 4am, crashed on her spare mattress, woke up at 7am, and decided to head back to NJ so I could sleep in my own bed.

And now the weekend is over and I’m trying to write an editorial for my magazine where I compare China’s coverup of SARS to the T-virus in Resident Evil. I’ll letcha know how it goes.

Will These Goddamn Books Never Leave Me Alone?

I have to surrender. Recent visits to the Strand (plus that outlet mall from the Hugo Boss entry) has added way too many titles to my “to read” pile under the hall table. New titles:

Max Perkins: Editor of Genius – Scott Berg
Delirious New York – Rem Koolhaas
Essays of EB White
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men – James Agee and Walker Evans
7 Types of Ambiguity – Wiliam Empson
Robert Mitchum: “Baby, I Don”t Care” – Lee Server

The only things I’ve read, which will hardly help shrink the stack, are Daniel Czuchlewski’s terrible novel, The Muse Asylum, and Tom Stoppard’s recent Coast of Utopia trilogy of plays, Voyage, Shipwreck, and Salvage. I’m reserving judgment on the latter till I see it staged. My initial response was of such absolute bewilderment that I have to assume that I’m just missing something that’ll make more sense on stage.

So, in an effort to clear out a little space under the hall table, I am going to admit defeat: I’ve read 90 pages of Underworld, and I’m flummoxed. It’s just a terrible book. The baseball section that gets such praise is so poorly written, filled with such ridiculous pronunciamentos about the nature of the game, that I had to struggle to keep going. But that only led to some sort of idiotic performance art exhibition in the desert. The writing is just lifeless, and filled with inanities passed off as profundities. A buddy of mine once commented, “People like DeLillo for the same reason that kids liked Youngblood back in the 1990s: they feel like it’s not far beyond their own capabilities. It also explains the popularity of Tom Wolfe (the one in the white suit).”

Or, as my senior thesis advisor once put it, when I asked him if he’d read White Noise: “No. Well, I read a few pages of it, but it felt like it was the novel that a lot of professors want to write. That’s not a book I’m very interested in reading.”

So Don DeLillo can kiss my ass.

On the Couch with Dr. Schadenfreude

(Of the Millennium Dome, Talk, Enron, and the culture of arrogance)

I’ve long been fascinated by failure. Not the run-of-the-mill, never-been, B-list sort of failure that Howard Stern used to trot out so masterfully on the glory days of his radio show. No, the failure I appreciate most is the can’t-miss, blue-chip variety, the one that has everything going for it, but still manages to miss the mark.

The most obvious of these failures is the Titanic, of course. Not the Leonardo Di Caprio version, which was quite the commercial success, but the luxury liner herself. Almost as highly touted as the “Dan vs. Dave” ad campaign (you remember: the decathlon rivalry manufactured by Reebok for the 1992 Olympics, in which one of the decathletes (Dan) actually failed to qualify for the Olympics), the unsinkable (in theory) Titanic came across an iceberg (in practice), and that was all she wrote.

As the media have come to dominate our lives, the expectations they generate makes failure all the sweeter (especially when it doesn’t involve massive loss of life).

Take the Millennium Dome in London. Its principals made such grandiose claims for the tourism it would attract that they failed to notice the Dome was a cement monstrosity located near the old gas-works. Meant to stand for a century, it closed down 18 months later.

Take Long Term Capital Management, the scientifically designed hedge fund that placed so many investments (read: bets) that it could not fail. Except that it did, requiring a Congressional bailout to keep the world economy from convulsing.

Take Talk magazine. Positioned as an unstoppable combination of magazine savvy (editrix Tina Brown) and movie-making bravado (Harvey Weinstein of Miramax) set to turn publishing on its ear, it turned out no one listened to what Talk was saying. The magazine shut down three years after its inception.

Take Matthew McConaughey. Before his first major movie (A Time to Kill) was ever released, Vanity Fair did a cover profile on him, explaining why he was going to be The Next Big Thing. The rest of the mainstream media was also on the bandwagon, offering up carefully placed tidbits about the guy’s social life, family history, and movie-making aspirations. But a funny thing happened: McConaughey didn’t happen. His career never really took off, the public never took a serious liking to him, and he never became the superstar that the media machine insisted he would become.

I could go on in my sour-grapes way about these can’t-miss failures (Kurt Andersen’s novel Turn of the Century; the #1 pick of Joe Smith in the 1995 NBA draft; almost the entirety of the dot.com boom; that by-the-numbers disaster that was Pearl Harbor, the Movie), but I suppose there’s a point here, about how arrogance precedes a fall. To me, the truly grand failures are the ones in which the possibility of failure is never even imagined.

For months now, we’ve all been witness to the blame game being played by every single entity connected to Enron. No matter how close any executive, accounting firm, lobbyist or politician was to the collapse of the energy-trading company, their fingers all point to someone else. Like Long Term Capital Management, Enron could not have gone wrong. After all, it had paid off our country’s legislators to relax regulatory rules and allow it to build a commodities trade in businesses that weren’t mature enough to support such a model.

Belief in the commidification of everything (or the culture of arrogance, depending on how you look at it) led company executives to create shady partnerships to hide company debt of more than $1 billion, likely with the complicity of its auditors. One executive cursed out an investment analyst in a teleconference for asking what turned out to be the right questions. Then the death-spiral started, as investments tanked, debtors welshed on payments, executives lied about debt while dumping overvalued shares, and the rank-and-file were barred from selling company stock from their retirement plans. Add it all up, and you have one of the grandest failures in the history of American business.

In our own industry, some are drawing parallels between Enron and ImClone, the biotech company that watched its stock collapse after the FDA refused to review its NDA for Erbitux, a colorectal cancer drug that, by anecdotal evidence, did wonders for patients. The facts are still out on the ImClone case, but the media has pounced on the president and CEO, who allegedly made quite a killing in company stock while sitting on information about the inadequacies in the Erbitux NDA. Since the main investor to get hammered is Bristol-Myers Squibb ($1 billion in stock purchase last fall, another $1 billion to come in milestone payments, if Erbitux gets back on track), the public outcry hasn’t been as severe. We’ll have to watch how it shakes out, to see if ImClone joins Mr. McConaughey, the Dome, Tina Brown, et alia on my special list.


As I mentioned earlier, I edit a pharmaceutical trade magazine by day. Every issue (9, plus a supplement) I write “From the Editor,” a page that’s at least ostensibly supposed to be about the pharma & biopharma industry and the contract services and outsourcing arena that we cover.

Since the book launched in 1999, I’ve gone pretty far afield in subjects for that page. Sometimes, I used the page as an excuse to let my liberal arts brain out, which I don’t get to do enough of on a regular basis. Early columns at least tangentially had something to do with the magazine: compare & contrast Gilgamesh and the Human Genome Project; use A.S. Byatt’s The Biographer’s Tale to discuss the impossibility of getting the Top Companies issue 100% right; explain my editorial guidelines (no use of the phrase “win-win relationship”) by citing George Orwell’s “Politics & the English Language” essay.

At times, I went too far from my mission. Like the time I discussed how the Talking Heads’ induction into the rock & roll hall of fame was just another sign that I was aging faster than the general populace. That one caught the attention of the owner of my company, unfortunately.

At other times, I managed to flat-out nail a pertinent subject, with humor and concision. The best example of that, “On the Couch with Dr. Schadenfreude,” will go up next week.

And then the was 9.11. The magazine was in production week (which means massive deadline crunch) for its biggest issue of the year (October, when we go to the AAPS Annual Conference). Below, I’ve enclosed my editorials from October 2001, composed a few days after the attacks, and October 2002, when I took the anniversary day (9.11.02) off from work and wandered NYC with Ari Scott, a friend of mine. Go here to read her account of the day.

Never Forget

I have struggled for days to write this page. There are no words that can sum up the horror that has overtaken our lives after the deadly attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. The most fitting comment I heard was on the day of the attack, when New York’s mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, was asked for an approximate body count. The mayor replied, “I don’t think we want to speculate about that–it will be more than any of us can bear.”

It is more than any of us can bear.

During the Civil War, dedicating a cemetery on the battlefield where one of the bloodiest events in American history took place, President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. On the night of September 11th, I found myself reading”deeply reading”his words, as I tried to understand what it is to be an American. I enclose it here, because I hope some of you will do the same.

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain–that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom–and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

God bless America,

Gil Roth

I Love New York

It’s been a year since the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked by radical Islamist terrorists. The days following were a blur, each of us trying as best we could to cope with the practical matters of our lives, while history unfolded around us. At the time, we were finishing up the October 2001 issue of this magazine, and how we managed to focus on that task, I don’t know.

The events of that day will haunt us for the rest of our lives. Contract Pharma’s offices are 25 miles away from the WTC site, close enough to watch a plume of smoke hovering above Manhattan that day, close enough to see that haunting “towers of light” memorial in the evenings, far enough, perhaps, to feel like an outsider. A new world was born on that day, in violence and heroism, hatred and charity. Still in its infancy, it touches every aspect of our lives, challenging us to keep up with a new geopolitical mythology; challenging us to debate the worthiness of the Constitution in dangerous times; challenging us to do more; challenging us, ultimately, to see ourselves the way others see us.

Our industry has faced its own set of challenges after 9.11.01, and the ensuing biowarfare scare. The public (through the voices of Congress) demanded access to Cipro, and the Health and Human Services secretary threatened to remove Bayer’s patent protection as leverage to get the antibiotic at low prices. Several pharmaceutical manufacturers have been working around the clock to build supplies of smallpox vaccine. Others are filling atropine injectors for the military, to protect against nerve gas attacks. Recently, the government announced plans to inoculate the entire U.S. population against smallpox, within five days of a sign of an outbreak. A new world.

As the anniversary approached, my friends and co-workers pondered how to spend that day. Some felt that going to work, doing “business as usual” was a way to show that terrorism hadn’t changed our lives. Others took the day off, kept their kids home from school, and spent the day mourning. Some watched the “circle of life” ceremony and the naming of the dead on television. Some friends in Brooklyn wanted to gather on the Brooklyn Bridge at 8:53 a.m. and make a toast to the city. I chose to spend the day walking in NYC with a friend of mine and a camera. The accompanying photos are from that day.

My friend Aimee told me she wants to come down from her home in Massachusetts to see the WTC site sometime, but is afraid of feeling “like a tourist.” I didn’t go to the site until nine months after the attack, with my own set of excuses to keep me away.

By the time I went, the rubble was removed, and the pit was all that remained. The pit: absence in our lives; urban Grand Canyon; the paradox of an empty grave containing thousands of souls. The immensity of it daunted me, as did the claustrophobic intimacy of the buildings stretching skyward, right beside this uncharnel house, in which the dead are dust before their time.

I reflected on that first visit, and told her, “Your preconceptions don’t mean anything there. You might feel like a tourist on your way in, but once you get there, you’ll see how much bigger it is than you. That’s when you become something else: a pilgrim.” This is our Mecca, where we make our American hajj.

Off the (w)rack(ed with guilt)

Spent the early afternoon at a big, outdoor outlet mall up in New York state, where I spent money I probably shouldn’t have (since I’m supposed to be salting everything away for a number of reasons), on a variety of things:

$20 on books (The September 11 Photo Project, The Muse Asylum, and Baby, I Don’t Care);
$35 on t-shirts, underwear and a three-quarter-sleeve shirt at Jockey;
$60 on a sportcoat at Claiborne for Men (so I’m a homo, alright?);
$25 on a hooded fleece overshirt at The North Face.

None of these purchases made me feel too guilty. The problem was at the end of the line, when I walked into the Hugo Boss outlet. Now, I told myself I was going in just to browse around, maybe gawk at the Russians and Japanese who were filling up the place, get some ideas for neat looks (because my current one probably isn’t that appealing).

After all, I couldn’t possibly buy clothing from a company whose founder was renowned for designing dress uniforms for the SS, and using slave labor to manufacture it, could I? Why, just a few days ago, walking through Garden State Plaza, I saw some suits in the window of the Hugo Boss store, and thought, “Nice look. If only it wasn’t named after a guy who made the SS look so snappy.”

And that got me reflecting on the intersection of fashion and fascism, which I really don’t need to get into right now.

Why not? Because I found a sharp, $800 suit marked down to $100, that’s why. I tried it on. It fit wonderfully, looked great, and made me feel pretty bad. Until I thought, “Y’know, Gil, at this price, it’s actually hurting them more than if you boycott the place.”