Salada Tea

 Note: I didn't watch Mad Men.

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I wasn't sure what kind. I started out as a poet--and then in second grade, turned my sights on mystery. I won't elaborate (beagle detective) because I know from reading MFA applications that descriptions of a person's juvenalia are always too-cute, worse than boring. For a while I wanted to go into advertising, though I thought it was immoral, after reading The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard. Still, in the 1970s I was drawn to the personal, jocular voice of adverts in the teen magazines I read. Make that absorbed. I remember one ad about saving the pit when you eat an avocado and growing a friend, an avocado plant. It didn't make much sense, which is why I remember it. There was another for shoes or socks, having to do with women buying men's shoes or socks, and the advert talked about how women were buying men's shoes/socks, and now there was this product--shoes/socks--especially for women. The last line was, Now men with small feet can relax.

(Because women won't be buying all the men's shoes/socks. It was a simpler time.)

Last night L. and I were walking and when we had just passed through the DePaul campus, I remembered that N. told me that for her DePaul advertising class they were doing campaigns for the Green New Deal. I knew that would delight L., and it did. Then I thought of Salada Tea. I took a required advertising class in J school in the late 1970s. Our job was to conceive of a print ad for Salada Tea. I had never heard of Salada Tea (maybe that was why it was the subject of our assignment; could it be that the evil professor was going to use our ideas for his client?) There was no USP--unique selling point--about Salada Tea. I was angry about this. To emphasize my displeasure at the tea, I created an ad that had nothing to do with tea--I had a young couple underneath a blanket, which you could order from the tea. The professor wrote: What are they wearing beneath the blanket? because my picture implied that they weren't wearing anything. That was my point--you needed sex to sell the stupid tea.

As we were walking up Racine last night, I thought of the USP--Salada was cheap. Why not: Elegance for pennies. Elegance of deep, rich Ceylon [or whatever kind it was] tea without breaking the bank. With some copy and then the punch: With all the money you save, you can buy lots of crumpets.  

I realize this notion is derivative, in reverse chronological order. There was a series of TV ads in the 1990s, I think, touting the elegance and sinfulness of flavored instant coffee, one commercial featuring an older woman and a younger man. Ah, but I see from reading a case study that the coffee was already seen as upmarket before the serial commercials started. 

Freshman (as it was called) year of college I tried to get internships in advertising agencies in Houston but I couldn't. I did get a paying internship at the Houston West Side Reporter--$100 a week. I was anxious, as always, and would decide each day whether to meet a friend for lunch or spend the time crying in my car. I went to a Chamber of Commerce meeting once and we went around the table and introduced ourselves. I was so nervous I forgot the name of the newspaper I worked for. The meeting was for figuring out how to respond to the immigration of Vietnamese refugees. I remember the C of C PR person asked me if I could sponsor a family, and I asked her the same. Neither of us could. She was single. I was 19 and during the year living in a dorm. That summer I wrote about a group studying the possibility of merging the city and county health departments. 

I remember the members of the blue-ribbon group (a new term to me) studying a merger were emphatic that they weren't going to create a report that would just collect dust on a shelf. The next summer I had an unpaid internship in an un-air-conditioned building at the Mighty Ninety News and World Report, put out by the local Pacifica radio station. It was too hot for me and there was a cat roaming, besides. I quit and I tried to revive the city-county story as a freelancer. I didn't finish it and took my notes with me to Paris for my junior year abroad. At some point, with the help of some polyglot therapist there, I abandoned the project.

And that, children, is the moral of this story: Never bite off more than you can chew. Or pour more.... 

And, you ask, are the Houston and Harris County health departments combined? What do you think?