Monday, January 22, 2007

 

The Resume (A Random Anecdote)



Job #12: Outgoing Intern

Well, it was a busy few weeks between the time I got The Call offering me a magazine internship and my arrival to begin that job, in a state some thousand or so miles south of where I usually summered.

These days I don't accomplish an awful lot in the space of six weeks, but looking back on that early summer of 1989 it's clear I was inspired. In that span I managed to:

--Wreck my car
--Graduate from college
--Get a new car
--Turn 21
--Get my wisdom teeth out
--And almost get shot by my brother

(Those last three happened all on the same day. I'll tell you about it some time).

I also began to get signs that this was going to be one fucking great job. I had done quite a bit of homework on the company I was going to be working for. At the time, it published 20 some different magazines, newsletters, and what they called wall media--big posters with little stories that were posted in college dormitories across the land. The company--headed by its visionary young founder (a gentleman who I realize with some shock was only 4 years older than I am right now, and even then he already made seven figures, had a hobby farm in Vermont and an apartment in the Dakota in New York)--was moving into some video initiatives.

I personally was going to be working on a "group" magazine, which we'll call Special Bulletin, a slick, glossy, oversize magazine that hearkened back to the glory days of the business. SB was the largest launch in history because it was actually four magazines in one, and each magazine would cover a different topic related to popular culture. I was going to be working on the magazine that dealt with lifestyle features and personalities--kind of like People magazine. All in all, it sounded like excitement itself.

And I couldn't have been happier with the terms of the job. It paid $300 a week--that it was paid at all was a wonder. Even better, by accepting a pay rate of $250 per week, I could as part of my compensation be housed in a furnished apartment complex that the company just happened to own for the very purpose of putting up interns. I was, after all, one of 35 that they hired.

So it was that one day in early June, bright-eyed but still slightly puffy-cheeked from my wisdom-teeth surgery, I bade goodbye to New England, and headed South, occasionally glancing at the map that the company had FEDEX'ed me, along with the key to my ground-floor suite, which I learned I would be sharing with two other interns.

I still remember that drive with great fondness, heading off alone towards a horizon entirely unexplored, hurtling (sometimes in excess of 90 miles an hour, I'm ashamed to admit) towards a destiny that was completely my own, even if it was one I only barely perceived. Somehow, that made it all the more thrilling.

Others, I would later learn, did not share this thrill. Others were nervous and scared and feeling entirely vulnerable and alone, being as they were, one of the first people to arrive at the intern apartments.

I was the fifth person to arrive at the complex, late on Friday and so happy to be there I sprang out of my car as though it had an ejection seat. I was greeted by the company's intern coordinator, who was making one last check of the accommodations, and who had just been upstairs assuring others that more interns would be arriving soon. She went to great pains to direct my attention to the features of the two-story apartment complex which, I must tell you, was a basic concrete bunker whose main amenity was that it had a front balcony on the second floor, which made it an excellent place from which to view the goings-on of the house directly across the street from us. The house the coordinator was directing my view from.

The crack house.

Yes, sports fan, if a city of any size has a seamy underbelly, you can trust your humble narrator to find it. But back then I was so overflowing with enthusiasm, I didn't care that we were in the very center of the proverbial "bad neighborhood" near the local college. The neighborhood all the college students avoided. Unless they were buying drugs. As it happens, I wasn't in the market at that point in my life, but think if I had been! How convenient!

With that strange sense of immunity to crime that can only come from being very young, very poor, and very stupid, I eagerly set about unpacking nearly all my earthly belongings into the one single bedroom (which I claimed as the first occupant of my suite. My future roommates would have to bunk up), not bothering to mind that the lock on my bedroom window--which gave a pleasing view of the dark alley behind the building--was broken. Indeed, I wouldn't notice it til almost the end of my time there, but my immunity held out. Either that, or burglars who broke in clearly saw that I had nothing worth taking.

My first roommate, whom we shall Langston, arrived some hours later, just after midnight, as I was sitting in front of the air conditioner in our living room, watching Gunsmoke reruns. Langston was, like most of the interns, a junior in college. He was from Connecticut and while first impressions revealed him to be a decent enough sort to live with, he also seemed to be an eccentric one. He was given to reciting poetry and playing a fife, two things he revealed almost before he was through the door. Now I was doubly glad to have arrived first and claimed a room for myself.

Langston was one of those people who seems to delight in being overly candid, and in supposing that you should be as well. As I helped him unload his car, he spent most of the time telling me that he was in an experimental phase, sexually and was bi-curious. "Not," he added, "that I'm propositioning you! Hee hee!" Langston spelled his laughs like that. Langston was, in general, pretty preoccupied with sex--I mean, I was too, of course, but Langston took it to a ridiculous degree. With almost no preamble he took to quizzing me about my sex life.

"Are you still a virgin? You look like you might be, but I can't tell. You seem very comfortable in your own skin, and many virgins are not," he said.

"Is this how you bond with all new roommates?" I asked.

"You're evading the question," Langston said.

"No," I corrected. "I'm simply not answering and am too polite to tell someone I've just met to fuck off."

Langston laughed. "Hee hee! I'm just kidding. You don't look like a virgin. I just wanted to gauge your reaction to a probing question. I like doing that." There was a pause. "So, are you?" he asked.

And so went our first night.

Since we had the weekend before we were to begin our respective jobs, we spent the next couple of days exploring the area, finding all the essentials--bookstores, laundromats, supermarkets. The very next morning, in fact, was our trip to find the local mall, and it was at that point that I first beheld this lovely creature, whose radiant beauty outshines even the drama of her late 80s hairstyle. This is the first known photograph I have of her.

intern2


See? Some of you think the only time I post pictures of Her Lovely Self is when she's in a bikini. But it's simply not true.

(It still isn't. That's a one-piece.)

HLS joined us on our trip to the mall and was glad of our company, having spent a miserable first night alone (her roommates had not yet arrived). Gee, I'd have been glad to remedy that I thought rakishly. But it's important to remember the kind of appearance I cut in those days. The kind, in short, that more or less automatically marked me as A Man Not to Bring to Your Bedchambers. Even if he did change his t-shirt.

intern1

Oh, and that's Langston on my right, in a rare moment where he's not fifing or asking probing personal questions.

While I was at the mall trying to entertain this creature of divine yumminess, our third roommate, Lee, arrived from California. Lee was an odd duck too. He was a design intern, but nearly all the books he brought with him were not of a visual nature. They were self-help books, and self-help books along the very specific track of manipulating others. How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to Work A Room were just two of the titles I remembered him reading. And he was constantly putting what he'd read into practice, as I noticed at one of the first group parties we went to on Sunday, after most of the other interns had taken up residence in the building.

My previous two years at college, my roommate had been my best friend, someone who was so scarily like me in all respects that it was nigh effortless to live with him. Indeed, it was a pleasure. So by Monday morning, I'd had just enough of both my roommates to decide that I needed a breather from them, I got up early, intending to walk to work. I had reconnoitered the area over the weekend and determined it was just a few blocks' walk to get out of our dodgy neighborhood, then you could trot across a footbridge that took you to the city's lovely park and state fairgrounds. From there it was another five blocks to the building I was to report to.

As I stepped out the door, there was Her Lovely Self, bent over the building's cluster of mailboxes, affixing her name to her box. Although I was still years away from drinking coffee every morning, the fluttering in my chest and the surge in my brain (and elsewhere) felt like I'd just been bumped full of some thrilling stimulant.

"Are you walking too?" she asked, genuinely thrilled. Well, not "thrilled" so much as "relieved." "I didn't bring my car and I'm a little nervous walking around here. Do you mind if I go with you?"

"No, no not at all, nosirree!" I said, hating myself for doing my nervous gibbering talking thing. But it was hard not to lose my composure when she smiled. So we set off together and compared notes on roommates, hers having finally arrived, and sounding like less of a pair of wackadoos than the two I'd drawn. HLS's office building was just the other side of the fairgrounds, though, so our conversation was a short one. I made a mental note of where she was, wished her good luck, and continued on my way to my own building, a modern skyscraper that overlooked downtown proper.

I found my way to the 28th floor, gave my name to the receptionist, and a few moments later saw a tall, slouching, long-haired man with thick black glasses come hurtling down the hall towards me. He was wearing a dirty polo shirt and a baggy pair of khaki shorts that revealed hairy legs covered with bandages.

"MM!" he cried as if I was an old pal he'd seen last week. "You made it! Welcome!" He grabbed my hand and pumped it twice, then threw it away. Up close, the man's appearance was even more startling. His reddish hair was so big it was positively leonine. And I noticed that in addition to his glasses, he had a couple of other interesting features, including an amazing scar that ran from his ear to halfway along his jawline. He also had what appeared to be a fresh set of stitches above his eyebrow.

"Are you Jim?" I asked, referring to the editor who had called to offer me the job.

"Nah! I'm Andy! Jim's in a meeting, but you'll see him later. Come on, I'll show you to your cube. You got your own typewriter and everything."

Then Andy all but dragged me down the hall, showing me along the way where all the important things were, such as the men's room, the copier, the conference room where the staff met twice a week to discuss the current issue they were working on, and a bank of 10 shared computers for the floor (this was 1989, remember, and many companies were only just transitioning to a total PC environment).

Along the way, we passed an extremely thin woman with a head of straight blonde hair that was very long in front and very short in back.

"MM, this is another editor you'll be working with, Dotty. Dotty, this is our summer intern."

Dotty eyed me with an utter lack of interest, then turned to Andy. "Where'd those new stitches come from?" she asked.

Andy waved it away. "Ah, long story. My cat jumped from the top kitchen cupboard to the ceiling can--it was off--and ended up hanging off one of the fan blades. I climbed up to get her, but she lost her grip and ended up grabbing onto my legs--" here Andy pointed to his band-aid covered lower self. "I lost my balance and grabbed the pulled chain for the fan. Thing turned on right away and one of the blades caught me." He shrugged. "Who'd a thought a ceiling fan could start so fast?"

Then Dotty looked at me again and gave me a sardonic smile. "Andy has the funniest bad luck of anyone I've ever met, NN" she said. "Don't hang around him too long. It might rub off."

I laughed at this, but before I could answer--or even correct her mistake about my name--Dotty turned back to Andy, ignoring me completely, and said, "Boss wants us downstairs looking at those slides from that thing."

"Oh!" said Andy, looking at his watch. Then he grabbed me by the arm and hustled me to a cubicle around the corner from the shared PCs. "I gotta leave you here," he said. "But Jim will come find you when his meeting's over. Meanwhile--" he pointed to a stack of printouts sitting on my desk. "Those are galleys for the latest issue we just sent to the printer. Start looking em over to get a feel for what we do. You'll especially want to look at the feature on all the people who've been on Candid Camera over the years. You're gonna be working on a similar piece, tracking people down for it. Bye!"

And with that, I was alone.

I sat down at my desk, slowly, almost reverently running my hands along the desk, looking at the bright, shiny typewriter, the walls that were covered with schedules and editorial calendars and outtakes from photo shoots. I grabbed the hefty stack of laser-printed galley pages and let the smell of toner and ozone wash over me.

Look at me, I thought, as I dove into the galleys. I'm a Magazine Man.

I wasn't yet, of course. But that summer would definitely put me on the path.

And meeting Andy would put me on another path, too. Dotty was right: Andy's bad luck did rub off...



NEXT>>

Comments:
Absolutely LOOOOVE the "Joker" shirt, MM. By the way, "Langston"? That is an odd choice of pseudonym. There must be some good reason for that, but all I can come up with is "Hughes" and that wouldn't seem to fit or mean anything. Is it something I could dope out or is it just an inside (as in inside yourself) joke?
 
Man, MM, that hairstyle is really something, there. Of course, I was in the military while you were in your internship, so the hairstyle I had at the time was an extremely short flattop...the only virtue of which was that it was very easy to take care of.
 
You are very brave to publish those 80's pics of HLS and yourself. Andy's story sounded wrong. I think his wife beat him or he was into S&M.
 
Hey MM, when I was in graduate school, right out of college, I had the EXACT same couch that's behind HLS in the picture. The EXACT one down to the peach color and bit flowers on it.

My Mom picked it up at an estate sale for a steal. It was my first piece of furniture in my first apartment.

Not that it means anything. I just got a kick out of the picture.

Oh, that and, Man were you a skinny thing.
 
Aw.
 
Dude, for some reason that shirt is absolutely perfect for you. I cannot even begin to tell you how hard I laughed at the fact that you can keep a straight face with that horrific face on your shirt. Wow.
 
Those are some fantastic jeans on HLS -- and I adore your haircut and outfit! God bless the '80s...
 
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