For those of you who have questions about whether or not you could ever handle temp work (surely you've been agonizing), allow me to set your mind at ease.
I'm sitting in the Javits Center in Manhattan, next to the Hudson River. I sit at a table & collect tickets for the fifty or so people who are attending a photographers' seminar. I wait three hours until they're done, then change the sign and take fifty more tickets for the next seminar. And what do I do during the three-hour presentation?
Well, yesterday I wrote Part I of a short story in fond remembrance of my first porno mag. Today I'm writing this letter. This is some hard work, I'll tell you what. You would think that management might frown upon the slacker who slumps at his table with a spiral writing notebook all day, but Rosie, my supervisor, comes up to me yesterday:
"You know, I'm so proud of you."
Huh? "Well, good."
"I'm always telling my son that he ought to write more."
Yeah, but I'm writing about porn. Which is probably what her son would write about, if he's of a certain age. "Well, good."
"He's been putting off this cookbook project for school, but I tell him that writing's important."
Well, there's your problem. First, it's a COOKBOOK. Second, it's for SCHOOL. Third, his MOM keeps telling him it's important. I wouldn't wanna do it either. Who the hell thinks up crap like this for kids to do? It's bad enough they have to do math homework and diagram sentences. "Well, good."
"You know, I'm gonna tell him about you."
Yes, by all means, regale the child with the story of the man who writes little tales all day while he's taking tickets for $10/hr. You've chosen your role model well, my friend, and I'm sure the kid will grow up and buy you a big house with his earnings. Or just live with you. "Well, good."
I knew I'd get in good with Rosie, though. She's...well, let me reveal my secret. I really don't know why, but in every work situation I find myself in, I always end up befriending black mothers. Single & childless black women look askance at me, and white women evidently think I'm a bit shifty, but you put me in an office full of people & damned if I don't always end up talking to a black mother, who usually has a son or two.
I've thought long & ponderously about the reasons why, but I'm absolutely dumbfounded. It's gotta be some resemblance to their kid, but I don't see how, since:
1. I'm white as Casper the Friendly Ghost.
2. I've been 40 since I was 12.
But you'd be amazed at how universal this thing is. Maybe it's just that I nod & smile a lot, & that gives them a chance to talk about their kid. But that doesn't seem to work with the white mothers. It seems I'm always under suspicion of being a scruffy, idealistic ne'er-do-well with them. I dunno, it's weird.
Anyway, here I sit being terribly productive, and I thought I'd like to announce something. Soon you will receive an email titled "Letter From NYC Subscription". If you follow the instructions, you will be subscribed to my new mailing list. Why do I have a new mailing list? Because...
POW!!! I HAVE A NEW WEBSITE! (since you're reading this now, of course you know that - ed.)
Yes, friends, the monkey I've been a-monkeyin' with for six months or so has been put in a suit and shoved up onstage for the world to throw their coins at. No, no, don't feel sorry for the monkey. Go, go gawk at him, point and make him do tricks. He's a monkey! That's right, I no longer have any idea what I'm talking about.
So what will you find at thematthewshow.com? Well, firstly you will find the entire Letter From NYC archive, all the way back to the first utterance, back before I knew it would become the Monster That Ate Your Inbox.
Secondly, I've invented the Life Timeline. It's a fine way to chronicle the little factoids that make up one's personal history. Soon I may have the capability to create them on demand, so stay tuned.
Thirdly, there are Features. These include reviews, bizarre theories, and even battles between hairstyling products. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.
Fourthly, there are Thoughts. Just random bits of ponderation that need to exist somewhere, so why not a stinkin' website?
So what was I saying? Oh, the mailing list. Well, my webhost has its own mailing list service which is better than the cut-n-paste crap I've done so far. The list is growing, & I trust the machines to make fewer mistakes than I would. The machines know all & see all, you know. Watch The Matrix.
I know everyone and their dog's arsehole has a website nowadays, but I'm excited nonetheless. I don't have any music files up yet, but that will soon be rectified once I can get 'em rigged up. Just you wait. And I promise to update regularly, or at least as often as I scribble missives. Which I guess is as often as I get boring-ass temp assignments that gives me valuable writing time.
So there's all that.
Just got done with Halloween in Sunset Park. People really did it up right, all the little runtlings in their finery, skulls peering from apartment windows & such. Saw a brother and a sister posing for pictures out on their stoop. The girl was dressed as a little angel and the boy as a little devil. Then the girl started beating the boy with her angelic wand. I see how it is.
Meanwhile, back at the Javits Center: This other temp monitoring the seminar admission across the big hall from me just had an encounter with a Blusterer. You know 'em. They don't have a ticket, so they fume until you let 'em in. I've worked in retail way too long to be intimidated by those fuckers, & apparently my fellow temp is of similar mettle. So the Blusterer goes down the hall, and we see him badger this young girl temp into letting him into her seminar. My friend is appalled, and shouts over to me:
"Did you see that?"
"Yeah, that ain't gonna fly around here."
"That's right. No ticket, no chance."
So we're agreed.
Not 15 minutes later, this whiny bitch comes out of my seminar. She clomps out on her high heels, says, "This is boring, I'm going to another one," and nabs a ticket off my desk.
"Ma'am, those are only good for the seminar printed on the ticket," I inform her, but she's already walking across the big hall. I see her gesturing with her stinkin' ticket, and I signal to my friend that this woman is not to be admitted. This guy looks down & away from me, and lets the ho-bitch in.
You gotta be kidding me.
"You gettin' soft over there?" I call across to him.
"Naw, I mean...the thing is, who's gonna know? I mean, do you think these people really care about US? We're nothing. It ain't a thang, you know."
Mm-hm. Sidewinder. One rule for the boys, one for the girls, is it? See, people don't think this shit matters, but it does. If people get away with such behavior, they carry it everywhere. Into the checkout lines, into the movie theaters, into the goddamned office. What they learn is: Bluster enough, and people will overlook the rules. Not on my watch, mister. And I don't care how fine you think you are, lady, I'm already gettin' mine at home, so you'd best back off before I sic a black mother of two on your ass to tell you what's what. That's right, you just go on home.
I will say that sometimes the crappy part of this kind of assignment is that you're not sure what you have the authority to do. For instance, I just got a crying-baby complaint. What can I do? Should I tell the lady to leave? Is there a policy on this? No one knows, 'cause we're all freakin' temps. So I check with Rosie, who's also a temp. She doesn't know either, but says the lady "oughta know better" & tells me to get her out of there. So I creep in & give her the news, and she steps out into the hall with me.
But now the lady wants to know who complained, and I don't know if I can tell her. I suspect I can't, so I tell her that. So she wants to know if she gets a refund. I don't know that either, so I refer her to the Information Desk. I don't know why, because they're temps, too. Now, I could understand her being mad about that. But she's still all pissed because someone complained in the first place.
"The baby's just happy, she's not crying," she argues.
Well, look. A baby makes a noise. It's a high, shrill noise. It's a noise that no one but the noisemaker's mother ever wants to hear, particularly not at a photography seminar, where everyone's paid hundreds of dollars to hear the latest photographer crap. And why, oh why, would you bring a baby to a place where there will be quiet auditoriums?
She has to know the rule: If there is a quiet auditorium, the baby will cry. It never, ever, EVER fails. I know that, and I don't even HAVE a baby. I checked with Wifely on this, to make sure I wasn't being unreasonable, and she's with me & Rosie. The lady oughta know better.
I think what irked me was that there was a sense of entitlement, that she should be able to attend the entire seminar just like everyone else, and that I was discriminating against her because she had a baby. Well, I'm sorry. It IS different. The baby is a person, too, and if any one of those other people in there were making that kind of noise, I would've kicked them out. So in a sense, I wasn't kicking HER out, I was kicking the BABY out. Which sounds horrible & cruel, but it's not.
I mean, if we had a baby & I wanted to take it to a quiet auditorium full of people, Wifely would think I was nuts. Because I would be. You can go in, but the baby can't. It's just the rules, man.
I'm looking out our apartment window at the clouds & the fat little birds. Not sure why, but I felt like commenting on how nice it is to have Autumn. I feel a bit more like myself in the Autumn & Spring, always have, & they seem to hang on a bit longer up here than in Tejas. But so does the winter, or so I'm told.
It's definitely Simon & Garfunkel weather. I mean, it's New York, the sky's in a melancholy mood, and I just learned Kathy's Song on the guitar. By God, where's Artie G when you need him?
4th Avenue is strewn with litter from the New York Marathon, which passed through a little earlier. It's interesting, because it's the first time I've actually seen a street sweeper around here in broad daylight. I remember street sweepers from when I lived in eastern Arlington, and it seemed to me that they just sort of ran over the trash instead of cleaning it up. But these are actually leaving trails of cleanliness, so maybe Arlington's crappitude extends all the way to its maintenance efforts. Ah, don't get me started.
We watched the original King Kong on TV last night, and it's interesting to see how similar that New York is to the present one. Many of the same buildings are still standing. And the lighting on that movie is so dark, it accentuated my mood a bit, I think. Sometimes I feel a bit like King Kong. I just wanna be loved, and people don't understand. Actually more like Charlie Brown, though I missed It's the Great Pumpkin... this year.
Of course, Linus may be a bit more apropo lately: Is this the most sincere pumpkin patch? I don't know, but it sure is nice. I'm told the Wifely's hair color is changing like the leaves. She tells me it's red now, though I'm as colorblind as a particularly colorblind wombat. Next time you see her, tell her it looks great. I mean, I think it does anyway, but damned if I know what color it is.
Now I'm off to crank Bridge Over Troubled Water. Not just the single, the whole album. The Only Living Boy In New York seems appropriate...