THE BLOG
06/17/2013 01:47 pm ET Updated Aug 17, 2013

Drop That Name!

When I lived in New York name-dropping was a competitive game akin to chess. I learned to avoid obvious name-dropping as this is easily frustrated by the "who he?" counter gambit. I illustrate with an imaginary four move game between myself and Hedge Fund Manager who writes large checks in order to hobnob with politicos:

Hedge Fund Manager (HFM): Joe called yesterday to ask my advice on the North Korean situation.

Me: Joe who?

HFM: Joe Biden

Me: Who's he?

HFM: Vice President

Me: Of what?

HFM: The United States!

Me: What happened to Dan Quayle?

As in jujitsu, I use my opponent's force to overthrow him and win easily.

HFM should have known that the best names to drop are those of persons who don't exist. Your opponent will think he should recognize this name and is ashamed to admit he does not. Whenever I am back in New York I employ this technique with the non-existent "Push" Sulzberger.

Opponent: I had lunch yesterday with Henry Kissinger at The Blight; you know that tiny eatery in the flower district that serves contemporary Irish potatoes dishes. I think Henry was impressed that all the waiters knew me. Anyway, Henry seems worried about the cabinet crisis in Chad.

Me: That's odd. Push says everything there is under control.

Opponent: "Push? Who is Push?"

Me: Push Sulzberger.

My opponent, knowing that "Punch" Sulzberger and "Pinch" Sulzberger are the former and current publisher of The New York Times, dares not exhibit his ignorance of "Push" Sulzberger and changes the topic.

I have enjoyed great success with fictitious friends such as the Czech intellectual Emile Kempný, Jamaican rap artist Mffkr and Anna Sophia, Princess zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Speilenglock.

Since moving to Seattle, my name-dropping skills have atrophied. No one in Seattle drops names. We have some famous people such as Bill Gates and Paul Allen. But if you start talking about "my friend Bill," or "my friend Paul" people will assume you were one of the dweebs in their circle at Lakeside.

We have other business luminaries, for example, Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, and Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, but one is unlikely to score points by mentioning "my friend Howard," the man who sold the Sonics south, or "my friend Jeff," sacker of publishing houses and pillager of retail book stores.

Political figures are a staple of name-droppers in D.C. and New York ("And then I told the President"). Unfortunately politics here offers the all excitement and drama a high school student council meeting. If you wondered happened to those the earnest bores who were always running for student office, I can report they all now hold political office in the State of Washington.

You may think this blessing, but Seattle has a Mayor who reserved a quarter of all street lanes for exclusive use of hobbyhorses. He now wants to make all downtown streets one way going north. His only prior political experience was as a classroom representative on his high school student council that spent three years debating stairway traffic regulation. This is what he knows.

In Seattle we can't drop name of glamorous socialites because we have none. Our level of social glamor was best explicated by my friend Joe Duffy's remark, "if you write a big enough check, you can be seated next to the Coke bottler." As I have famously noted, there is no social climbing here for the same reason there is no mountaineering in Kansas. There is nowhere to climb.

Even if we had names to drop, I doubt name-dropping would catch on here. Seattleites compete only in recognized competitions such as spelling bees and tennis. They do not view crossing a street as competition. In fact, they wait for the light to change. In New York, I could never place in the first division of my age group in street crossing. In Seattle, I consistently beat people half my age.

Even if they understood it was competition, Seattleites would probably view name-dropping as New Yorkers do hiking. They have heard of it, understand that many engage in it and enjoy it, but they don't know what equipment to buy and how to get started.

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