Dog Alley has lost most of its pizzazz since the pit bull, Chaco, went away. But not all is lost.
Across the alley from where Chaco used to rage at me is a retro poster on the south side of the offices of E. B. Lane, the Phoenix advertising firm.
It harkens back to the old days of 1962, the year Ed Lane founded the company that bears his name. A photograph of Lane dominates the field, confident, serious, thoughtful and not quite arrogant. That and the rising smoke from a cigarette held ever so casually in the fingers of his right hand.
The poster radiates powerful symbolism and depicts an era when smoking was not only more sociably acceptable and far cheaper, but it defined America and particularly the successful businessman. Every actor in a Hollywood film in those days seemed to fall under a mandate of cigarettes and wispy smoke. In every scene. Looking just like Ed Lane must have looked 50 years ago. Masculine, invincible.
“Still Mad Men After All These Years,” the poster says, marking E. B. Lane’s 50th anniversary last March.
I’m trying to remember what I was doing in March 1962. I can remember what I was doing a year earlier, in 1961, all right. I passed through Phoenix on a pleasant evening. I was hitch-hiking back to Oklahoma from Los Angeles, having thumbed a ride with two drunken sailors at Ontario, California. They let me out in downtown Phoenix. I probably even carried a pack of Pall Malls. Maybe even lit one up.
And I like to imagine Ed Lane and friends gathered somewhere that night, maybe at Durant’s, plotting out an exciting future for themselves with the start of a new ad firm.
But 1962, I don’t know what I was doing that March. Nothing quite as spectacular as what Mr. Lane did, that’s for sure.
Anyway the Lane poster in Dog Alley makes me smile for some reason every time I pass it on the way for coffee down at the corner Starbucks. The poster is of course a take-off on one of my favorite TV shows, “Mad Men.” You know, Don Draper playing Ed Lane. Or somebody that could be Lane.
Actually I would prefer the dog Chaco but the “Mad Men” poster works fine, a nice diversion for me along an otherwise boring route. And it’s still standing after all these months. But like Chaco and every other blessing in this mean, politically divided world that is America, I don’t expect it to last long. And then to what in Dog Alley can I look forward? Probably not much. What good is an ad firm and a “Mad Men” poster in a country going Third World?
What happened to us? The quality of life in America began to hit the skids with the JFK assassination in 1963, a year and a half after Lane founded his ad agency.
That, followed by killings of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the corrupt Nixon presidency. the corporate ascendancy and huge budget deficits of the Reagan era, unnecessary wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq and, most shattering of all, 9/11.
Life was better 50 years ago. I like to think Ed Lane would back me up on that.