21 August 2005

nice ears, Garvice

As I mentioned, briefly, several misbegotten posts back, I am now gainfully employed by a certain publishing house in New York City. Solicitously, I neglected to inform those who sanctioned my employment that a previous girlfriend of mine had served as an editorial assistant (verily, dear reader, my own role heretofore) several years ago. She left before the completion of a year, having discovered that she wasn't cut out for either the pay or the work, and jaunted off to bonny Albion in search of other satisfactions (she found a fine new girlfriend there, older, and a corporate lawyer, whose lifestyle if not her vacation time suited her ideal). I have since discovered from coworkers that the editor my girlfriend worked under was less than comfortable or productive in the house, spiritedly unhappy, and was soon "asked to leave," as no one there is ever actually "fired."

So, indeed, I entered this job with some awareness of her discontent, and have been happy to discover that my own experience so far has been thoroughly endurable.

I work for two editors. The first, older and a VP, who I'll call Clara, has been granted by many at the company the epithet of sweet Jewish mother, known for leaving treats and other signals of goodwill on the desks of those with whom she works. My predecessor arrived on her penultimate day of work to discover a deep purple orchid, well in bloom, wedged between her/our keyboard and monitor. Clara is in charge of the paperbacks published by the company as well as the "classics," works from the backlist either out of print or deserving of more attention, which are reissued with fresh introductions written by the contemporarily hot-to-trot. She worked formerly for Vintage Contemporaries (an imprint whose fiction I read more than any other) and is so pragmatic as to be self-effacing (at a recent editorial meeting, in which all of the editors sit at table in the Publisher's office and the editorial assistants drag in folding chairs and desperately strain to hear the meeting's whispered proceedings in the offing, Clara took a spot on the windowsill, recognizing the lack of seats for everyone). She is difficult to read but extremely even-tempered, and asks about the amount of sleep I've been getting or whether I've eaten a sufficient amount on the day of her questioning. She even told me, last week, that she was glad that I was leaving work at 5:30pm on one particular day, in order to attend a party, and said that I'd been staying too late.

This would be the time to mention that it is customary for those employed by this fine if somewhat patriarchal institution to arrive at eight in the morning and depart well after six. Overtime, my dears, is undocumented but paid in free books. The nature of the work is such that it is often easier to stay late in order to complete the tasks one has begun than to leave them for the next day, that next day being a day which may present a climate more hostile to their completion, given additional sundry tasks, duties, obligations, and caterwauling authors.

The second editor I work with, I'll call her Lise, lives in an office just across the hall from mine. She has, as my ladyfriend has stated, an early nineties haircut and dye-job: blunt horizontal bangs and just shoulder length hair, with the bangs and bits of the face-bordering fringe bleached a brassy blonde. The effect is severe and cute, simultaneously, admirably so. She often wears necklaces that declare her outdoorsyness (in certain genres of sci-fi or romance fiction the "amulets" would be described as being affixed to her neck by leather "thongs") and polyester dresses too garishly printed not to be vintage. Lise is my height if not a bit shorter, and I made the mistake this past week at marveling at how tall I felt in her presence (more often than not she wears flipflops to work), I perched in my misguided and uncomfortable heels. She chuckled, but I could tell it was more courtesy than genuine entertainment.

One positive interaction led to our agreement that my ladyfriend is, indeed, totally hottt. As Lise is the editor of the author who I worked for this summer, she had seen said author's documentary about abortion, which includes (features) my ladyfriend and her story. This was the best part: Lise is standing in my doorway, I'm seated at my desk, and another editorial assistant is standing to my right. Lise says, "Yeah, when [your ladyfriend] came on the screen, George [her partner] and I were like, Whoa, she's totally cute. And then after the screening was over, [your ladyfriend] gets up to answer some questions and we were like, Whoa, she's even hotter in person." There's just nothing like bonding with your boss about how fucking attractive your girlfriend is, seriously.

Lise edits the imprint that primarily publishes plays, books on film, pop-cultural histoires and analyses, in addition to some fiction under the flagship imprint. Lise is stern, deep-voiced and dark-eyed, and when she laughs I feel compelled to describe her as a jock. She demonstrates the necessary patience and acute performances of drama in order to elicit action or simply text from her authors, often playwrights and filmmakers who are distant in either mind or body. She has frequently lectured me on the absolute necessity of maintaining absolute discretion when dealing with their contact information (the address of a famous person in the wrong hands can very well necessitate said famous person's migration to an esoteric state) and has given me scores of proof that when it comes to dealing with people in Hollywood, it's best to pretend that everything is happening right now and you need to get me this right now and why isn't it here yet goddammit? I'm pretty sure I don't yet have the license to play the "goddammit" card as of the present moment, but I'm sure it will come, jutting out of the deck like a green light, a premonition of some new and aggressive personality that I do not yet fully possess.

All said, I'm grateful to be working for two women. Face it, people: I'm much more likely to earn trust and give my trust to women; though there are plenty of good examples of fine menfolk in my life who I admire and trust, many of you are reading this, it sure does take a while. More detailed descriptions of my duties to follow, if they be desired.

I remain, yours, in absolute frisson in the face of the inequities and idiosyncrasies of publishing, theories about which I'm sure to develop in the foreseeable interim.


15 August 2005

bathers 1

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bathers 2

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bathers 3

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bathers 4

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14 August 2005

appeas'd be

Sorry for my absence. A thorough rundown of the work situation soon to follow. In the meantime. I posted some of the North Dakota/Colorado photos on my Flickr page.

Here, my mom (on the right) and my aunt Sue (on the left)demonstrate the power of mastery through imitation. If you examine my mother's facial expression, you'll see she shares my transparent sense of irony. The stripper mannequin was posted at the top of the stairs of this tiny restaurant in Amidon called "Georgia's and the Owl" that had kindly announced, "Welcome Stegner Reunion: 100 Years."

08 August 2005

by way of annoncer

My dear people, I am very pleased and grateful to say that I now have a job.

Or possibly more accurately, I have been told that if I come to the same place every day from 9 am until 5 pm I will be given rent money plus some benefits that will come in handy should I collapse while working.

Scary to think of me in the working world, primarily because I believe I have a great number of illusions about the working world. Like, once I gain their respect I can wear as many cleavage shirts as I so desire. Or, no one will give a damn about my hairy armpits. Or, because I'm a reasonable and capable person, no one is going to yell at, throw things at, or generally disrespect, moi. Or, because I'll be working for women, one of them a self-declared feminist even, the situation will be most likely simpatico (meaning, hopefully, clear expecations, reasonable demands, a reduced likelihood of demeaning, unnecessary, and time-consuming tasks, or in the event of such tasks, a shared sense of the ridiculousness of humanity's lapsed ability to optimize working environments; i.e. copy machines and fax machines should have been turned into coffee dispensing, lunch/drycleaning fetching, mood-sensitive robots a LONG TIME AGO). The ladyfriend's own situation at the Agglomerate of Canards and Legal Ululation will attest to instability of the previous hypothetical.

But perhaps my most cherished illusion: now I can help to publish the work of my talented and beloved friends!

05 August 2005

dream post #1

So currently, I'm in Colorado with the family, a situation interesting only insofar as it confirms my nascent (good and bad) suspicions, derived from and harbored since my own time as an angry teen, back when I was so much better at acknowledging my feelings and yet so powerfully inarticulate.

I'm in a condo in beautiful Steamboat, one of those Summer is for Sports and Winter is for Skiing towns where the rich people flock on weekends and the people who actually work the cash register at the Safeway live in trailer parks ten miles away, just off the interstate. The sounds are pleasure planes and million dollar home construction, the smells are just west of girl scout camp.

Like most of my visits home, I believe (when I book the ticket) that I will enjoy staying for as long as I can. But a week here (and in North Dakota) and I'm spent. The goodwill is turning sour and I can already feel my limbs stiffen with each ensuing hug. Four days to go. I've done the obligatory sprinkling of visits throughout my former hometown to the fractured Stoner relativities of blood and history that mar Fort Fun's shiny surface. These somewhat forced but still cheerful encounters are interspersed with bittersweet pilgrimages to the former homes of girlfriends, crushes, boyfriends and enemies who have systematically moved away from Fort Fun. And yet, I still think when I click that purchase button for the plane ticket, that maybe I'll get to see some friends. But having fled the town myself I can hardly complain.

Noteable to this visit, however, has been the fact that my mother and I convene each morning and recount the most unbelievable dreams. Ever since she dreamed of skiing and sex with Eddie Murphy and I listened, rapt, to the most literal eroticization and hyper-masculinization of a black man I'd ever heard, my mom believes I have a potent interest in her dreams. And I do. Oh yes, I do. We've also managed for this dream talk to be an exchange, something my mother and I are not especially good at. She tells her dream, and I tell mine.

So Wednesday morning, I woke up and shuffled downstairs in the pants my mom has threatened to burn at least five times since I've been home, and listened to her tell me about her dream of a Wild Safari to Africa, which included countless African scouts, during which not a single animal was spotted let alone shot. She doesn't care for hunting and yet she woke up feeling horribly disappointed. I ate the rest of my fiberlicious breakfast cereal with a "hint" of brown sugar, then I told my mother my dream.

I dreamed that I ate another human being. This person I ate, quite genderless yet naked, was awake while I was doing it. The circumstances weren't desperate and I certainly wasn't being secretive, as this happened on the street. It wasn't gruesome, exactly, but it also wasn't clean and neat. I was as methodical finishing leg, then arm, then leg, then arm, as I am methodical in finishing each pile of categorically different food on my waking dinner plate. And this person I was eating seemed to approve of my process. Or at least, I thought they did until my first meal's friend (or acquaintance, I'm not sure) approached me, offering themselves as dessert. As soon as we reached some sort of bizarre agreement, "do you find me worthy enough to consume you?" was my big question, the second person agreed. And then they entered the butcher shop on the street behind us and called the police. My first agreed that I should be prosecuted for agreeing to partake of a second; the head belonging to the person I had just eaten was still animated and offering details of my appearance for a police sketch. So I fled. I ran as fast as I could through clean streets and the kind of greenbelts that only the most canned of suburbs can find beautiful, until I felt my bones tell me that I'd reached a town whose residents, all of them, had done something terribly wrong. I settled there, with people whose features I recognized but whose names I didn't know, and after enough time had passed, I believed I was happy.

My mother shook her head, in that special way she has of locking her eyeballs on me while her head rotates back and forth, back and forth. It gives you the impression that her eyes are the locus of her body, around which everything else flutters and turns. Then she said, "Every time I think my dream is weird, your dream is so much weirder. How is that?"

I didn't have a good answer for that one, beyond the obvious, "Because I'm weirder," or "Because you take dreams even more literally that I do." But I had to confess that this was a first. I've flown a lot, I've killed a few people, I've (twice) rapidly alternated between the positions of penis-bearer and vagina-bearer in some sort of trans/bi body snatchers event, I've even channeled the voice of some powerful, wrathful being (due I think to the ancient electric blanket I was sleeping under), but I have never before dreamed of eating someone. I can only wonder if this was a symptom of the vast quantities of ground beef I consumed while visiting the Stegner homestead in North Dakota.

02 August 2005

they called me "worldly"

adj 1: characteristic of or devoted to the temporal world; "worldly goods and advancement" [ant: unworldly] 2: very sophisticated especially because of surfeit; versed in the ways of the world; "the blase traveler refers to the ocean he has crossed as `the pond'"; "the benefits of his worldly wisdom" [syn: blase] 3: concerned with secular rather than sacred matters; "lords temporal and spiritual" [syn: temporal]

So this third uncle of mine, twice removed, once divorced and never remarried says to me, "You, girl, are some worldly folks." And I spend the rest of the weekend wondering about what he meant when he said it, how much of the true definition of worldly he intended, how much of the negative connotation that sprang to mind was true to his intent, his hat-tipping tone, his fly-batting handswing. Most of the folks I met this weekend in Amidon, North Dakota, where Fred Stegner, Sr. staked his claim on a parcel of farmland signed off on by Theodore Roosevelt, were related to me by some portion of blood, more or less, give or take, a thimble-full or a mosquito, it seemed to matter not.

My mother, aunt, grandfather, and I drove the 8 hours from Fort Fun through Wyoming and the Dakotas to this tiny town where my grandfather was born and lived for six years until his father decided that Colorado was the place to be. By that time, Fred Sr. had a son old enough to run the North Dakota farm, and a wife stubborn enough to drag all of her chickens down to Colorado in a coop hitched to the back of the wobbly Hudson with spoked wheels that came off of their own accord and brakes so absent they required meticulous downshifting. And every time I thought of my origins there in North Dakota those same origins were moving south to Colorado.

It didn't take long to feel like an alien. No, Aunt Jill, I don't talk to God, but neither have I suffered the torture of breast cancer. No, Uncle Floyd I don't have a boyfriend and I don't plan on marrying, but neither have I witnessed a marriage worth emulating. No, Cousin Bryce, I haven't cultivated a special dish to attract men, not like your Yvonne and her hamburger casserole. No, Cousin Gordon, I'm not afraid of the city and I don't believe in God and she's my girlfriend goddammit not my roommate. Farm life didn't glow with timelessness for me, but I could see how it could. Though they told me they were proud, my precious education didn't mean much up there, but that seemed as it should. My teal eyeshadow was likened to a dye job on a cow, but somehow I knew it would.

I met (Georg(e)tte) on the fuzzy lip of Amidon, just past Georgia's and the Owl, the most famous (only) restaurant for miles around. I didn't have a car, he/she did, but neither of us were going anywhere. It didn't take me long to realize that a transexual mannequin faux-cop like (Georg(e)tte) knows something about worldliness. He/she spent some time describing recent additions to his/her car, how he/she received a scarf in winter, the new glasses stolen by an ex-partner who'd run off to Bismarck.

We sat with the spiders in the squad car, watching cars race then slow then race on by. It was when I decided to go home that (Georg(e)tte) offered me the consolation prize: a short celebration of the necessity of surprise, discomfort, indignation, and humor. As I lingered outside his/her window, he/she slumped over suddenly, striking the car's horn with his/her pointy powdered-looking nose.