Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"So Long It's Been Good to Know You" (Cont'd)

"The Little Jewish Lady" (Cont'd)
I am really not a nice guy. I only seem to be. Yes, working around me, especially if you're a lady, is fun; I'm funny, jovial, always ready with a puzzling (or pizzling) quip or a curve-ball compliment (in that it catches you off guard but doesn't strike you out--just refocuses your eye)--unless....

In the case of this little Jewish woman who had partially because of my "recommendation" gotten this job and who was now being forced on me, "You said you approved of her, Wolf Boy," said the big tall redhead, "so now she's yours," to which I started method-acting about the office crying, "Ah-gaaaa, ah-gaaa!" (I got that from jazz saxophonist Johnny Griffin, one of the unsung greats--pretty much overlooked these days in the current history of jazz as rewritten by the fop Ken Burns (a one-track mind) and the omnipotent and omnipresent Wynton Marsalis (I to this day can't figure out how Wynton Marsalis got jazz handed to him on a gold platter--why him? I've admitted I hear a lot of study in Wynton's playing but I don't hear the right kind of passion I seek when I'm listening to and criticizing for my own sake any music, jazz or pop, whatever--like Wynton's idol, Louis Armstrong--and I applaud Wynton for his high regard of Louis Armstrong--he had the verve I'm looking for--that verve that Norman Granz later named one of his record labels after--but not Wynton. Wynton knows the score, hell yeah, and Wynton's technically correct--but he does blow clams occasionally--he blows his most clams when he tries to do tricks off that technical tightrope he's trained himself to walk on with perfect balance--you see, when Wynton tries to reach for that verve I've been talking about, he begins to wobble, gets frightened, then steadies himself back upright and technically correct and then in comes the ensemble and saves his ass and he comes off as a performer of the highest regard)--but there's this one Johnny Griffin solo, it's on the first Monk at the Five Spot live album--on Riverside--"In Walked Bud," and when Johnny goes into his solo, he's so wound up and full of verve he suddenly swerves into an off-minor high-end octave run that when he finishes it and is regaining his breath, he goes "Ah-gaaaaa, ah-ga, ah-gaaa" and right back into another drive up the groove. Man, and to play with Monk--Little Johnny Griffin, one of the great saxophonists of my lifetime; yet, Wynton Marsalis never mentions him. Bassist Abdul Malik is on that great recording, too; I know, "WHO?")

So the redhead slams me with the Little Jewish Lady and her fucking fat ass complaining, her sloppy way of eating constantly at her desk (soon she trots out a tacky gold bib that she starts donning every time she eats), her sickening tobacco-toxic-skin odor, her constant hawking up those deep-throated cigarette-sucking-caused lugies, her constant gabbing on the phone with constant backwardass ignorant pretentious conversation--soon I knew all the characters she talked to constantly, between smoke breaks, between getting a sausage and peppers sandwich (god how they stink)--and anybody who's worked me too long knows how I despise the smell of eggs--I haven't eaten an egg in way many moons--over 25 years--the smell of eggs makes me gag--so what becomes the Little Jewish Lady's favorite breakfast? You guessed it, eggs, eggs and sausage and home fries--Jesus, the odors suddenly confronting me in that once peaceful, private, and hidden office! And you are now asking, "You dumbass, why did you tolerate this?"

Aha, it's like I read Paul Bowles talking about what his mother sat him down as a kid and told him to learn: to find a place within himself where he could isolate himself from the world around him no matter the distractions. Advice Paul said stayed with him all his life and he said he learned just how to do it, too, and he did it and he lived his life that way, isolated yet social to the extreme--yet, you never really know the truth about a person like Paul Bowles, or me either because I, too, adopted this same self-isolation ability as a kid. Like Virginia Woolf, I had a room of my own--both physically and mentally--one thing lucky about being an only child (I had a brother, yes, I know, but he was 16 years older than I was--and he was off in the South Pacific until I was 7 or 8 and then he came home and he was 24 going on 25 and I was still a spoiled brat, a "little" brother, which is all I was, though I enjoyed the dude and was proud he was my brother--he was a unique man in my young eyes; most of my life--he was much more important to me than my father). And in my room I could put myself into a world way far on the other side of the world in which my parents were existing, in some cases right in the next room, and in which most of my peers were existing. And in my isolation ward, I learned to tolerate most any attempt at distracting me from my world; outside advice, warnings, edicts, threats, messages, blasphemy--I learned to shield against such regulatory intrusion--to try and change me was a futile effort--so my parents, through whatever wisdom they were born with, left me alone--let me keep my door closed to them, though I did, they complained a lot, play my devil musics awfully loud sometimes, "Would you please turn that music down, Wolfie?" How humbly they learned to ask that of me. I was really trying to impress them, but they never caught on; they treated me like their pet son--"He volunteered to enter his box, Mr. Skinner. Hey, as long as he's in his box he doesn't get on our nerves." That was my parents's attitude; they were behavorial psychology followers and didn't even know it--well, hell, my mother proudly admitted she'd raised me according to Doctor Spock's first baby book--there ya go: I'm an original "Doctor Spock baby." Spock was a great progressive thinker--he lived to be nearly 100--his problem: he was too behavioral--he treated babies as units rather than individuals; it made us original Doctor Spock kids very deceiving in our personalities--we can easily pretend--like we pretended sucking on our rubber nipples attached to our glass-bottle breasts was completely satisfying when what we Spock babies really craved was some good old-fashioned mother's milk fed to us through a live nipple, not a rubber one; I grew up on a phony mother's milk consisting of Pablum, Karo corn syrup, and evaporated cow's milk. Maybe I'm more like a cow than I am a human being--I mean, come on, I was raised human on another animal's milk. That sounds weird; that's why I had to become a writer, don't ya see?

And I am the great pretender. Being the great pretender, like a chameleon I began to blend right in with the Little Jewish Lady's encroachment upon my workplace liberties, her actually sweeping into MY office and claiming it as her own, which, since she was regular staff and I was a freelancer, and according to the tall redhead, she had a right to do. I rationalized it: the big deal was the office symbolized that all this was was, afterall, just a stupid job (can I play with words or not?); a stressful job; a demeaning job for me--I mean, come on, for 10 years I had been head of my own editorial department and here I was being paired with a woman who in terms of experience in the advertising world was frightfully lacking--she'd been a proofreader at a cardiology journal--really she was originally a receptionist for them and like a lot of editorial type places, they do shuffle the proofreading off on the receptionist or any other worker who might be sitting around doing nothing; from there she went on to be made official proofreader, and she'd been the official proofreader of this small cardio journal, and that was her experience--I even had more proofreading experience than she did--but still like I say I chameleoned--put on my survivor camouflage--and shit, folks, I'll level with you, I started pretending I was simply a nice Jewish man--see how I handled it? Hey, this agency was paying me big bucks and there seemed to be an unceasing flow of them coming out of the advertising well, and since I truly needed the income from this job, hell, it behooved me to simply slip into my isolation ability the minute I got an assignment, and I would dive right into the depths of my work and lose myself in those depths to the total ignoring of anything going on behind me--including the BAD music on her never-off radio and her loud yenta-blatting during her continuous phone conversations.

Suddenly, too, before she went off on one of her smoke breaks, she ask me to answer her phone for her, and as she waddled out the door, she slung over her shoulder a, "You don't mind, do you sweetie?"--and the very friggin' minute she walked out of the office, her phone started ringing off the hook--her sister; her best friend from Lon' G'Island; her pals from her old job; her husband; then her son--"Where's my mommy?"--"Out smoking herself to death." "Well, tell her I called, please, man, it's important." Yeah, sure. He sounded like a dunce--and believe me he was. Then the calls kept coming--then one from another guy, "Hi, is my Ma there?" "Is this the son again, I just told you she was out smokin' herself to death." "No, this her son Rocky." "Rocky! Jesus. OK, Rock Man, what's up?" "Tell her to call me at the ambulance service, it's important." "OK, Rocky me boy." Then the phone rang again. "Hi, is my mother there, please?" "Huh, you again or are you yet another son?" "I'm Sidney. Tell mother to call me, it's very important." "OK, Son #3, Holy Smokes, how many more of you are there?" I left her a stack of "They called while you were out" slips on her desk and when she got back she said thank you and started making the calls--the rest of the morning she was on the phone.

Now you ask, when did she do her work? Good question. As a proofreader, she had plenty of personal time because she had to wait for the editors to work on the copy and then it was sent to be reviewed by the account execs or the writers and artists, then it would be sent to the printer and the proofs would come back the next morning. When the Little Jewish Lady came in and there was a stack of work in her bin she'd start reading right off the bat though soon she was on the phone--working as she jabbered; then when the tough jobs piled up on her, she started handing single-page ads over to me and asking me if I could proof them while she worked on a longer work. I refused at first, but later I got to where I'd take 'em and knock 'em out and give 'em back to her and let her initial them as if she'd done them herself. One day she handed me a dreaded piece of proofreading--a PI, in the pharma advertising world that's the bitch piece--a pure proofreading job that should be a set-in-stone template but isn't because the size of the ads are constantly changing so there's no set line count or format for these dull, cumbersome, and extremely sleep-inducing publications. PI stands for "Prescribing Information"--it has to come included with every prescription drug. It's the long little piece of thin paper that has very small type and jammed tight lines and the text is thick all up and down this tapeworm-long thin printed behemoth--not even a bionic human could read so small'a type--6 point! This piece of paper really is the only real truthful information attached to these prescription drugs. It comes with the drugs for the doctors's to use in explaining to the patient the different adjustments they must make in successfully using these powerful drugs and it used to be doctors never read these and depended on the pharma reps to explain to them the cautionary items throughout these things, like drug-drug interactions or whether you need to get a blood test or liver exam before taking some drugs. These PIs tell what truth there is to tell about the drugs they represent, even to the point of saying if people died or not during the clinical trials these PI's are based on. All prescription drugs are toxic. That's how they work--like rat poison works on rats. Even the blockers and the statins are toxic. If you read one of these PIs, you may never take another prescription drug. Nobody in their right mind wanted to read these PIs. When the Little Jewish Lady tried to palm that off on me, I came down on her--"Please, LJL, I think you were hired to read these, not I; I'm not doing your work for you, LJL." She cowered. She wasn't used to men getting strong on her. She was used to wimps; wimps she could dominate with her incestuous motherhood--turns out she did have one son--the dunce, the "mommy's boy"--the first son to call. Further turns out the other sons, Rocky and Sidney, weren't her sons at all, they were brothers, and they had grown up in her neighborhood and she'd known their mother--"She was a common whore and when a common whore's busy she dumps a lot of little bastards into the arms of society--and this bitch just dumped these boys in the street, and, dammit, I somehow became their surrogate mother, except I want 'em in bed, too; they're lusty boys."

That's the first time she put something in a sexual mode. Turns out these two dumped-in-her-lap sons of hers were also her incestuous lovers. See how complicated this Little Jewish Lady is getting; and I mean I'm suddenly plopped right into the middle of it; most of her life from the time she came to work with us was spent in that office--I mean we literally were working 20 hours a day together--she came at the time the agency was launching a goldmine drug and thanks to this wild-ass staff it became the most successfully launched drug advertising campaign ever for a drug that overnight became the drug for arthritis and inflammation, though those of us editing the ads and fact-checking the claims and reading those god-damn PIs and reading the results of the clinical trials, we knew it was simply a high-powered ibuprofin, which had recently gone generic, its branded copyright having run out--so we knew the drug didn't work really, but hell, launching that drug made us all momentarily sort of rollin' in the dough, at 40 bucks an hour at 20 hours a day and overtime pay for Saturday or Sunday work, which I did, hell yeah, and soon I was makin' $800 a day/ $5,000 a week all that spring and summer of the launch on into the good times of the fall medical convention season--and the agency went up in the world of pharma advertising, we went up to 25th in the world--with a 300-million a year earnings potential--I mean, the bucks were flowing freely--traffic girls were buying homes and new cars they were getting so liquid--even I was eating steaks every night at my favorite restaurant--buying art, collectibles, buying a new keyboard, some fancy recording equipment, upgrading my computers--shit, yeah, I was making the moulah and when you're makin' the good moulah you forget how shitty the work is and how shitty doing the work is and how shitty it is working in a crowded office with a Little Jewish Lady from Dah Bronx--when the bucks are rollin' in, you don't give a shit--just keep them checks'a comin', and they kept'a comin', and the Little Jewish Lady even though a proofreader and making a mediocre salary--27,000-a-year tops--started making big bucks, too, all on overtime and Saturdays and Sundays. Plus, at work we were constantly ordering food, pizzas, then Italian dinners from Manga, a high-class Italian catering business run by Russians--it's New York City where nothing makes sense really. The fucking work became a party and the Little Jewish Woman certainly had found herself a little paradise and soon I found myself a part of the Little Jewish Lady's everything and I found myself becoming a part of her personal life and soon she was asking me for advice (like I was Dr. Phil to her (he went to my alma mater, folks--I studied educational psychology with the same teachers he did--I'm as qualified to give advice as Dr. Phil--ooooh, big deal)) in a psychological sense (remember, I'm a trained sociologist--an empiricist, a looker at fiction and facts and then a digester of that fiction and facts and then a master of summarizing--the true meat of a matter is in a sociologist's summary of the whole (the Gestalt) of a situation, behavioral or environmental)--you know, she started becoming my subject--my patient--and of course, my Freudian principles started working perfectly on her--remember Freud was a Jew and he knew exactly what was wrong with these kind of Little Jewish Ladies--the epitome of a neurotic is a Little Jewish Lady from Dah Bronx--that he did, and boy did she fit several Freudian frames--especially that Oedipal thing Freud wrote a lot about. So I became this woman's advisor--even advising her on how to keep herself from getting fired, which soon she faced because of several boo-boos she made in dealing with the tall redhead and then a backfire from her pals in the accounting office about her turning in too many meal receipts--or turning in old meal receipts she'd saved up from her own personal breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, etc. She also started getting in trouble with missing things on her proofreading. She always denied she made mistakes. She'd come to me and say, "Is this right? That peckerhead back in the Mac room caught this--is he right, that dumb Pollack?" "Yes, LJL, he's right, that comma isn't necessary--if you read it carefully it changes the meaning of the sentence to put a comma there." "Yes, I knew that." That was her way of admitting she'd missed it. I asked her, "By the way, LJL, why are you making editorial changes--you can't do that?" "Why can't I? I'm as qualified to be an editor as you are." Whoa. I had an untamed one on my hands. "Don't Mess With Texas" the old country/western cry for awhile back in the Lone Star State and my Texas rugged individualism was challenged when this piddling proofreader told me she was just as good an editor as I was. "Not if you put that comma in you aren't--that doesn't show me you know how to edit, just the opposite." "Oh yeah," she rebelled. "Prove to me that comma doesn't go there; I think it does." "Why should I have to prove that to you? You're a proofreader, darling. You are to catch printer's errors. You are supposed to follow the edited copy to see that all the editorial changes were made--so if the editor didn't put a comma there, it's not your decision to put a comma in there. You could query it. Your power as a proofreader is in your ability to query an editorial change but not take the liberty of editing yourself." "I still think a comma goes in there." That's what I was suddenly having to deal with--EXCEPT, I was determined not to let this little Jewish mother mother me--I never let her get that advantage on me--and yet she tried to trick me with it, then turning it into a "love" thing, just like female patients fall in love with their therapists (and oh the stories I could tell you about sex and psychologists--Freud himself was obsessed with women and making them--you know, male-dominating them with male-advice meant to make them more open to heterosexuality; the taming of the shrews).

Like it or not, I got pretty damn close to this woman. And speaking of parallel lines, believe me, our lines if parallel were never in sight of each other there was that must distance between them, though I was able to bend mine towards hers whereas she was unable to bend hers at all--she was stationary as hell--rooted in her childhood when daddy was alive and praising her and bouncing her on his knee and telling her what a pretty little girl she was and how important she was going to be when she grew up. And then her daddy died and wasn't there anymore and she was still a growing girl and that's when her problems really began. For one thing, that's when she started smoking cigarettes.

(Still to be continued, as is always Cont'd)

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