Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Living in New York City--The Plexiglas-Plastic Jungle

The poor hapless Haitians have just been subjected to a devastating 7.0 Richter Scale earthquake. Only the poor suffer in both manmade and natural-made disasters--Haiti suffered devastating floods only a year or two ago. EARTHQUAKES in the Caribbean! That's close to my home, folks! I suppose we will move in and occupy Haiti now. Just as we did in the early 1900s under Woody Wilson, a Dumbocrat; just as we did in the early 90s under Slick Willie Clinton, who is now Obama's special Haitian expert and advisor--Slick Willie, the man who imprisoned starving Haitians in Guantanamo back when it was an immigrant-holding prison--holding lunatic Cuban refugees and Haitian innertube-boat people trying to escape the poverty and oppression of Haiti to get to the USA--Slick Willie, the bastard who had the US Navy put a ring of ships around Haiti to thwart the thousands of Haitians trying to escape Haiti to come to the US in innertubes. Slick Willie who had the Marines occupy Haiti in order to stop a coup attempt by the Haitian police/army. And then that little demon crook G.W. Bush of course kidnapped the duly elected Haitian president, Aristide, to whisk him off to exile in Africa and put into power the current weak-ass president--who for all we know maybe lying crushed under the crushed flat National Palace. So, yes, the backwards thinkers are right: there's no such thing as Global Warming and weather-pattern changes and geothermal changes and undersea eruptions and plate shiftings. Don't worry, God is punishing Haitians for starting the AIDS epidemic--remember when we blamed Haitians for AIDS? One reason for the ban on persons with AIDS being able to enter this country--a ban just lifted by the Obama Administration.
Foto by tgw, "Manhattan Under a Full Moon," NYC, 2009.
You Know What a Full Moon Does to a Lunatic or a Wolf !
In order to take the above photo, now that I am no longer allowed on the roof of my building, I had to hang out my eleventh-floor window, one foot propped against one of the old metal studs on the window frame, studs that the old-timey window washers used to hook their safety belts onto, safety belts into which they sat back braced out over the brink and over the airshaft that drops eleven floors to the solid concrete down far below as they went about washing the windows. I locked my other foot inside the opposite side of the window, hooking my toes into the inside frame, then swinging my body out, my back braced against the brick extension of the building, swinging out--swinging up, worrying more about accidentally dropping my camera than my self falling eleven floors to my death.

It was a dawn. Dull morning light...but I've learned to force my camera without the flash on to use whatever light there is. The image is there buried in several layers of morning light. Then I crop and image adjust and with these digital applications I can enhance the light--keeping it pretty close to whatever reality I want the photo to image. All coming from my oval of vision.

I never use the camera's viewfinder or viewing screen--rather I hold the camera up to my forehead and point it using my brain to decide the direction and object I'm wanting to shoot.

I'm into skies. There are 365 skies a year out my rear view of Manhattan--each changing 24/7 during those 365 days--some clear as a crystal bell jar, some awesome with angry arched-eyebrow darks, though some are filled brilliant in various explosions of the sun shining through the prism of our gaseous atmosphere--the reds burning up in orange flame streaks with buns of deep darkening settling clouds squashing them--as the sun settles into the swamplands over across the Jersey side of the Hudson River, the North River.

Every day I get up the first thing I do is look at the sky. Then I walk out into the hallway and look out the bank of hall windows facing the Mid-Town Manhattan West Side, up the gulley holding West 31st--always traffic-packed with streaming of red taillights at night and metallic sparkling jams during the daylight.

There is an allegorical full moon over my Manhattan all the time. A time of wolves. A time of lunatics. Moon worshipers. I worship in the sunlight. But I SIN in the moonlight. I love the pleasures of the night more than I do those of the days.

My days when I had to work were pleasurable; yes, believe it or not, I had a couple of working periods there where I looked forward to getting into the office every work day and even sometimes when I had to work long periods of overtime. Yes, I was being exploited but they were paying for it in those days of cup-runneth-over wealth.

When I came to NYC as a twenty-something-year-old looking for fame, one of the first jobs I applied for was a receptionist job at Commentary Magazine. This was in the very early 1970s. I was interviewed in the Commentary office by the then editor-in-chief Norman Podhoretz. I had no idea who he was at the time. Like I said, I was young, and yes I did carry a briefcase of my mss around with me, along with my resumes. I had three resumes: one for my background in Social Work and the other my background in Urban Planning and the third one my just-plain-old resume giving my education, my military service, and a brief description of my prior jobs--that kind of stuff. I had been an office manager in my past, so I submitted my just-plain-old office-manager resume to Podhoretz at Commentary.

I'd seen the job offer in the Sunday NY Times Classifieds, at that time THE way you got a professional-type job in NYC. For the slob jobs--the carry-you-through-until-you-landed-a-real-job jobs--you went to the tons of employment agencies.

And that's just what I was looking for when I saw this ad for a receptionist at Commentary Magazine--it said "...applicant must have a knowledge of copyediting and proofreading as well as being able to type 60 words per minute." I qualified. And, of course, my ulterior motive was I was looking to start on a ground floor to then show them what a tremendous editorial-minded and proofreading-minded worker I was. Show them that I had a "writing" talent to then be offered a writing job on staff. I'll admit, that was my strategy.

That Podhoretz was a backward-thinking fool--he and his wife, Midge Decter, both backward-thinking fools--at the time I didn't know. I truly had only a vague idea who he was and what Commentary Magazine was. Backward-thinking fool or what, on this day, old Norman read me like a book. The first thing he asked me was, "Why do you want this job?" It was asked sort of sarcastic. I noticed that. I got a lot of sarcastic remarks and responses when I first came to NYC. It was in terms of my Texas accent, which I never tried to change. I had a good friend who came to NYC at about the same time I did and the first thing he did was take diction lessons to get rid of his Texas drawl. He went on to Broadway fame and fortune. I felt like I am who I am so take me or leave me--and fuck you if you didn't like the way I spoke American English.

So I told Podhoretz that I wanted the job because I was new to NYC and felt I had to start on the ground floor in a job related to my experience and, too, since I came from a family of.... He stopped my ass before I could say I came from a family of writers and journalists, my grandmother a librarian, my brother a writer, poets galore in my ancient past. Podhoretz said, "I know what you're thinking. I know you. You're a wannabe writer. I see a thousand of your type every day. I don't need a writer, I need a receptionist. Sorry, we have no openings for you here." With that he turned and went back into the sanctified area of the office leaving me to exit on my lonely own.

Like I said, I didn't learn until a few years later who this Podhoretz jerk off was; this guy I left his office hating his guts.

And here comes a parallel-line story: Later, after I'd nailed down a good job at what was once Time-Life Films but had become Time-Life Multimedia, where my big boss was David Susskind--yes, that David Susskind. And one day, I'm sitting just outside Susskind's office and I look up and, son of a bitch, here comes that sleazy bastard Podhoretz into the office and I hear him announce to Donna the receptionist, "Norman Podhoretz to see David Susskind." He was there to discuss with Susskind a film project he was promoting.

So here's what I did. I moseyed up to old sloppy-looking Norm as he was waiting for Donna to wake Susskind from a middle-age reverie. I stuck my hand out to him, "Mr. Podhoretz," I jollily chirped, "My name's Wolfe. I'm sure you don't remember me, but you once interviewed me for a job at Commentary." "Oh, did I? When was this?" "A couple a'years ago. I'd just moved to New York and was looking to break into the publishing business but you said you knew I was wanting a job there as a receptionist because you knew I was a wannabe writer of which you saw thousands a day and then you sarcastically told me arrogantly you weren't hiring a writer and summarily dismissed me--didn't even have the courtesy to show me the door--just left me dangling. Anyway, I just wanted you to know, I'm not a writer here, but I'm the chief copyeditor, so I'll be looking over any script or whatever you submit for our approval...." The bastard walked away from me shaking his greying head. How dare me. "I just thought I'd let you know, you cocky bastard." Of course, I didn't yell that at him, though I was yelling it at him under my breath.

While I was at Time-Life Multimedia, the director who had hired me when Multimedia was called Time-Life Films moved over to CBS Production (CBS Enterprises) at the new CBS building on 52nd and Sixth they called The Black Rock. He got in touch with me and offered me a job with him at CBS and I took it. I hadn't been at CBS Production (CBS Enterprises) but a few months when the Justice Dept. ordered CBS to spin off its production department. The old CBS Production became Viacom International, whose founder and first president was a man named Ralph Baruch. While I worked for Ralph Baruch at Viacom, he started buying up CABLE stations all over the country. I really had fun at Viacom--they made me feel important. I was their only copyeditor at the time, working with the art department doing promotion and press kits and stuff like that. Ralph Baruch the first year I was there was put in charge of the Emmy Awards. He hired me to work on Emmy Awards Show promotions. For years I kept a check for $7.00 issued to me by the Emmy Awards Committee and signed by Ralph Baruch. I have no idea what happened to that check.

Here's a multichannel.com excerpt from one of Ralph's autobiographical statements--old Ralph was a fascinating dude who was involved big-time in the early days of show biz television and then later in the coming of Cablevision, Sterling Cable, Suffolk-Nasau (Long Island) Cable:


Oh what a full moon gets out of a lunatic man-wolf hybrid.

for The Daily Growler


Language said...

Podhoretz said, "I know what you're thinking. I know you. You're a wannabe writer. I see a thousand of your type every day. I don't need a writer, I need a receptionist. Sorry, we have no openings for you here."

Ah, memories! You said this exact same thing to a woman who showed up at the Big Accounting Firm we both worked at, except instead of "receptionist" it was "proofreader."

The Daily Growler said...


Me doth protest! With flailing arms and blatant cries of innocence. That was not I who sarcastically dismissed that poor helpless proofreader-wannabe-writer woman that day (I even remember the woman's name--the same as the big crooked financial firm--Dreyfus). But it was NOT I, I do protest yeah further...not I, but rather that charming little Bombay-born Christian lady--my first-ever and only ever
boss--who at the time was one of the most arrogant no talented women who ever lucked out and got a great job like that one was--and it was a great job for me, too, I'll admit--and you, too, and those of us who are continuing to be close compadres (from the editorial avant-garde). It was an existential-like office this little saucy lady ran--she and the Great Dane and their pulling their double billing scheme on one of the biggest at that time creative accounting firms in the big wide world--you've got to give them creative credit for that. I dare say both the Great Dane and the little Bombay Christian lady are roasting in the lowest level of Hell at the moment...can I get a witness!