Monday, December 17, 2007

"So Long It's Been Good to Know You"

"The Little Jewish Lady"
It was a Sunday in 1995, it was the end of summer, August, and I was playing the piano with a guitar player in a very small neighborhood bar just above where the World Trade Center used to be in what then was an AIR (Artists in Residence) neighborhood, though changing before our very eyes due to an influx of upwardly mobile noveau riche NYC-ers invading into the area; all due to the ingenuity of a troop of lesser-known NYC artists who made "loft living" in this old tin-facaded factory district suddenly popular in the NYC real estate game--location, location, location has nothing to do with the value of real estate--nope, the trends determine that--a loft no matter how seedy the street or area it is in was still worth more to a real estate hustler than say a 4-room flat on West End Avenue--these were the days before landlords discovered the condo (selling the apartments in their buildings--of course they still own the buildings by making themselves building management and putting themselves on the condo boards), though condos were'a comin' and soon these artists's lofts in the SoHo and TriBeCa areas became the trendiest real estate in NYC--rents going from like $300-a-month to $700-a-month overnight with big-buck fixture fees and key fees and shit fees thrown in. Soon these old lofty buildings were discovered by the Hollywood crowd, especially DeNiro, Dan Ackroyd (a fucking Canadian), John Belushi (was he a Canadian, too?), and also the phony famous artist types like Cristo, that talentless dick, and corporate lawyers and neophyte stock brokers--but I've already written about the degeneracy of this neighborhood in my episodic "masterpiece" One Spring Morning Off Spring Street -- yes, I'm blowin' my own horn; the late Norman Mailer said you had to advertise yourself; that was also the thinking behind an old artist once-friend of mine and BloHo loft resident, R.L. Seltman--and I'll give any reader a bottle o'the best who remembers R.L. Seltman--one of R.L.'s greatest performance pieces was his marathon eating of his beautiful wife's vagina in an artistic setup in a SoHo art gallery (he ruffled up the feathers of her Cuckoo's nest--referring to a bawdy song supposedly written by the lusty Bobby Burns: "I'd give a man a shilling/And a bottle of the best/Just to ruffle up the feathers of the Cuckoo's nest" (aye, aye, Rrrrrrubert, me lad)--R.L. Seltman stayed at that vagina for a week w/o coming up for air--he ended up with his mouth so blistered by the acidity of his wife's vaginal discharges it looked like he'd suffered third-degree burns around his mouth--like a serious exploding cigar went off on a first puff--plus his wife's vagina was rendered unavailable for any more pleasuring for several months thereafter; in fact, I think the notorious event led to their divorce--or maybe they were already divorced--I don't remember--I liked her; I remember making tons of wonton with her one night up in R.L.'s garage-loft (above a plumbling company's garage) on Spring Street--and I lived there briefly after my landlord evicted me from my loft because like he told me while servin' me me walkin' papers he could triple the rent after he got rid of me and besides the new tenant would have to pay their rent right on the first of the month whereas I was in the NYC habit of waiting till the end of the month to pay that month's rent--hey, landlords used to understand that.

So, I was playing the piano in this TriBeCa bar one summer Sunday in August, no other money coming in--and trust me, folks, I wasn't makin' any money off those gigs, free beers, an occasional couple'a sawbucks, once a coupl'a twenties, so poor I was living off Snicker's bars and regular coffees--I'd gotten "outplaced" in '93 in the first of what corporations first called "reengineering" though soon it became a "best and brightest" thing with the introduction of a thing called the Hay Report in white-collar workers's lives. The profit margin of the product suddenly became more powerful than that product's quality--and with the advent then of the personal computer and a totally computerized world--quantity became the key word in management world and quantity meant producing as many products as possible at the lowest possible production cost, which of course meant cutting (as Marx said decades ago at the beginning of the so-called Industrial Revolution) workers's salaries, vacation time, overtime, sick time, etc.--and companies began "laying off" half their work forces--or they began merging with each other, eliminating competition by conglomerating--bigger and better--cutting half the staffs of both companies as they merged--then after the conglomeration is up and running, "makin' profits,"--the white male's dream--profits being his greatest hope of ejaculation--and white men on average are like the Asian men, they have "little dicks," on average, like I say--a white man with a big cock is usually either a gentle giant or a prick of an asshole type--but a white man with a little dick is a completely mean asshole. Mediocrity began to rule in the corporate world from execs on down to the minority girls in the accounting department and the minority men in the mailroom--HEY, and then there was OUTSOURCING--using low-paid mostly young women to do the mediocre work--like "customer service"--mediocrity meaning subservient-type shitworkers who are competent enough, just enough, but they aren't driven like someone who's a whiz-type worker--a worker looking to grab a top rung on the ladder, a worker who may not be robotically obedient enough for management--you know the kind, challenges methods at staff meetings plus insults the big bosses and their privileged shenanigans--like dumping their wives of twenty years for their sweet young secretaries who start giving it to them on their desktops--but I sidetrack way off my intended subject, which is: after falling to the lowest a single man in NYC can go, broke, two months behind in the rent, fishing money out of the sidewalk grates in competition with the winos and mentally deranged, desperate, I one day met this tall redheaded woman with the kind of dog I liked (a female Shepherd-Collie mix) by her side; the redhead wasn't not attractive, though I was really more interested in her friendly kind dog than I was getting a shot at her, but anyway, my luck changed when I finally did go from kind dog to redheaded master and get acquainted, and, by golly, gosh, oh Jesus, she just happened to be an editorial director at a big advertising firm--on Madison Avenue, too, in the great old Look Building--great in terms of architecture but hell in terms of office work--casement windows that let those brutally cold harsh-gusting winds of those cold NYC-winter hawk days, winds that blow right straight through them and right into your coldest fears and you could on some days sit shivering like a woossie and trying to edit copy--but Holy Smokes I didn't mind--this big tall redheaded woman turned out to be my savior--she hired me as an editor--and not the kind of editing I was used to either, medical editing--a totally weirdly different form of editing than I'd ever imagined--but it was a job and I was a superfast learner and in the twinkling of an eye I was working again, on a freelance basis at first, making $35-an-hour and working some days over 20 hours--and soon I was making $40-an-hour and one year working at this joint I made over 100,000 smackers--I mean, ladies and gents, times were great for the Wolf Boy--and damned if I didn't hate the work but love it, too; and the people were OK, some dicks and bitches, sure, but most seemingly pretty smart and respectful--but whacko, as are all advertising folks--it's a nutjob for nutjobs, so highly competitive and supposedly controlled, except, and here I will reveal what should not be a secret to you unless you are a babbling idiot with a teenage mind, a mind that truly innocently believes all you see in televised commercials or print ads--I know for sure, I know because I've not only seen a lot of ads, edited them, proofread them, but I've also written them, and, folks, buckle your seatbelts, every ad you've ever read is in the Gestalt sense a BIG LIE--actually a gob of half-truths (which means they're half-lies, too) made to look enticing--made to shock your senses (your instincts) into action--"HEY, just because you are old and have the early signs of Alzheimer's disease (AD to you laymen) doesn't mean you can't possibly keep your normal life maybe a few seconds longer if you take FDA-approved Memhype (placebo & saline solution) for mild, moderate, or long-gone degrees of AD. When you try to draw a clockface on a sheet of paper do you end up with something that looks like the dog's breakfast? Then, you, or your caregiver, in case you are so far gone you can't really make heads or tails out of this ad, should see a healthcare provider ASAP, OR as Nancy Reagan used to say, 'You'll end up like Ronnie Raygun--with full-blown Alzheimer's yet still having to be president of these United Snakes of Amurica' [see JAMA, "Why Doctor's Need Big Bucks to Survive" by Drs. I.P. Doodie; Normando Excremonte; Sum Sling Cum; Selah Selem Sahib; Mawajhal Narawhajohohoswamitetragandiji. Subtitled: 'How specializing in AD-placebo prescribing can make you filthy rich']."

So there I was, editing tons and tons of super-half-lies/truths ["Some people taking this drug may suffer from stomach cramps, migraines, or in some instances DEATH"], around a bunch of wild-cocky-half-cocked up-and-comers, amongst whom were always a bunch of really gorgeous women--and there always are some very smart and hot women in advertising--it's an industry they can move on up pretty smoothly in, provided they play by the rules set by the MEN, the white men--and as I've pointed out many times before, I was in advertising for many moons and I don't recall one high-up black male in any backroom on Madison Avenue I ever worked in--yeah, there were black men in the mailroom--hey, that's progress! Even black women are pretty rare in the editing and account exec departments. I can't think of one black woman ad exec in this last agency I worked at--this agency where the tall redheaded chick got me on board.

After I'd gotten my sealegs on this rocking rowboat with no oars of a job, a job sailing wildly out in the middle of this Madison Avenue ocean of hucksterism, the big tall redhead started trusting me with inside info and shit and her number 1 assistant took a liking to me, too--yes, it's because I'm a charmer around women--a pathetic fool around men--but anyway, one day the tall redhead came in and told me she'd gotten permission to hire a full-time editor (no I wasn't interested--I was making more money as a freelancer) and a full-time proofreader. She threw a pile of what turned out to be resumes on my desk and ask me to go over them and tell me which ones I liked. They were the normal kind of resumes, I'd seen hundreds of them when I'd been editorial director at the Big Eight accounting firm's printing and design department (again all our printed materials were serious-looking on the outside--like one of our publications was called The Review and was designed to resemble a literary mag--yet inside, the articles were total bullshit, efforts to hustle business, all bragging bullshit about how "above and beyond" and how "old line and reliable" the firm was--under the guise of giving someone informative information--forget that! Bullshit is seldom informative; that's why it stinks so bad. I'd hired people by the solid tons on that job so I quickly went over these resumes and I picked out the two I thought were most qualified, though really I was weary of even these two, women both of them, one of them wanting to be an editor. She'd gotten coffee for her art-director boss at another medico-pharm agency and wasn't really a working editor though she had a Columbia U. degree--though I don't remember if it was a "continuing ed" type degree or a real one--maybe not--after we hired this woman I found her very interesting--she was a Jewish chick who'd been raised a Christian--and the other woman, applying for the proofreader job, claimed she'd worked for 20 years as a proofreader--she, by the way, was the only application for the proofreading job; nobody really wants to be a proofreader, especially a proofreader; except, I did once meet a proofreader who actually loved proofreading--he loved catching errors--even at baseball games he kept track of the errors and not the hits or pitching or anything--an errorless game was a drudge for him.

I took the resumes back to the big tall redhead and gave her my picks. "Yes, exactly, those are the ones I picked--you are talented, Mr. Wolfman, especially that proofreader--she sounds like a doozie!"

And so one day here they came, the new editor--and she really was OK but a bit too neurotic for me (a Jew-for-Jesus-raised woman who was now raising a family of Jewish men--4 boys she had)--a bit too "fishy"--and I mean that in the clammy-clumsy sense, if there is such a meaning to so fishy a word. But the other babe, the proofreader, HOLY HADES, she was Jewish, too, but New York Jewish, and worse than that, Bronx Jewish, born and raised in the Fordham Road section of Dah Bronx, still living in the apartment she'd been born in--and this woman was a trip--a typical Jewish chick in a very stereotypical way--if you remember the comedy of Nancy Walker (I know, "WHO?") and the kind of Jewish women she parodied then you have an idea what this "little" Jewish chick proofreader was like. A know-it-all, oh yeah. Married but to a slob and failure--nothing worse for a Jewish woman than a Jewish man who's a failure both financially and sexually. Spoiled as a little fat Jewish girl child by her Old World Jewish Poppa--told she was the prettiest, told she was the smartest, told she was going to make her Poppa very proud of her one day and then one day Poppa up and died and Little Miss Jewish Bronx Princess was reduced to nothing but a little fat Jewish girl by her not-so-proud-of-her mother--an Old World woman with deep Dark Ages fears and rules. So this little Jewish girl married the first man to sweep her off her feet and take her away from all that. "He had a boat and we would sail around Long Island Sound and then we'd dock at City Island and eat a groaning board of seafood or we'd go to Frankie's in the Bronx, the best Italian food in the city." Was she a yenta? Hell yes she was, but she was also the street-level kind of NYC woman who charmed the street-level others in the office, like the nice Puerto Rican woman in our traffic department--or the Jewish account execs--and the big shots, they liked her, too. Her problem! We had an office space crunch--we had a ton of people in our department so we had to share the best office space we could get and the big tall redhead had just been made a vice president and she didn't want to rock the boat in terms of being brazen with the office manager, a tough babe if ever there was one. I had a private office at the time; it was a cool office, right in the heart of things, yet with a hidden alcove into which I put my desk. It was great fun to have my own private nook and I had work out the ass and all was cool until one day the tall redhead came in and said she was sorry but she was going to have to put somebody in the office with me--and it was going to be our new proofreader. I didn't like it but what could I do, I was a freelancer, I had no political power there, so I bit the bullet and the little Jewish lady moved into my office. They put her desk behind me maybe three feet in a regular size office--with her in there, it was tight, very tight. And then the little Jewish lady came in the office lugging a big boom box radio, which she set up on a little computer table she'd brought with her, too. Then she checked her phone--then she used her phone--she called somebody she called "Honey" and started jabbering away even before she'd sat down at her desk. A little fat Jewish yenta yaking away in her Bronxese--yatta-yatta-yatta. Then she hung up the phone and sat down in her desk chair. She didn't like the chair. "I can't sit in this; my back won't take this chair." And then she was on the phone to the office manager who she'd already met and become friends with (an older Jewish chick like her and a chain-smoking fool, too) and demanded another chair--"I can't sit in this one, darling, it's too hard on my back." Soon they brought her a new chair. "Hey, how 'bout gettin' me a new chair!" I hollered. "Shut the fuck up, Wolfie, you're just a freelancer--you should sit in a straight back chair, so shut the fuck up."

And then on went the Jewish chick's radio. Oh HOLY Christ! She loved Cool 101--which claimed to be a "smooth jazz" station but which was a crass commercial "faux jazz" station--jazz to them was Grover Washington, Jr., which they played incessantly (it was an "in the can" radio station--totally run by computers) or Deodato or Bob James (God, I hate Bob James) or R. Kelly--yeah, I heard "I Believe I Can Fly" at least a million times (God, I hate R. Kelly)--every now and then they did play Miles's cover of that Michael Jackson tune--or that Madonna tune he covered, but most of the time it was Bony James or ... (God, I hate Bony James--oh, and by the way, I hate Deodato, too). And from that day on, that radio was on from the time this little fat Jewish chick came to work until she left at night, which was always late in those glorious days of rich, creamy, and time-and-a-half-time overtime.

Another thing this little Jewish vixen did right after she turned the radio on was to light up a cigarette. I said, "Hey, you can't smoke in the office any more, didn't you get that email?--didn't they tell you?" "I have to have my cigarettes, so what am I supposed to do?" "The Puerto Rican woman goes into the stairwell back by the Word Processing Department," I told her, "but you have to block the door open or you'll lock yourself out--you'll be stuck in the stairwell and will have to you'll have to go all the way down to the lobby level and come back up." When she came back from smoking in the stairwell, she said, "Somebody was smokin' marijuana in that stairwell; I know marijuana; hell, I have a teenage son and if I had a nickel for every time I've caught him smoking pot, I'd be a rich woman." Turned out this woman needed a cigarette every 15 minutes or so and soon she got her daily routine down pat and she'd come in in the mornings, go have a cigarette break, come back, eat breakfast at her desk, always very fattening food like Danishes and tons of coffee with Half-and-Half, and always after breakfast she needed another cigarette. Like Tex Williams who sang the famous "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke," she was always saying, "Tell the boss that I hates to make her wait but I just gotta have another cigarette." I counted one time--she went on a cigarette break eleven times in one day--eleven times at about 20 minutes a time--which adds up to several hours of cigarette smoking and jabbering, because besides cigarette smoking there was one other thing this woman was good at and that's talking, babbling, gossiping, bullshitting, and giving advice. "Take it from this little Jewish girl, that man's not worth the paper he wipes his ass on."

To Be Continued (as everything is continued whether you know it or not).

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