Monday, October 22, 2012

Follow the Little Red Line

When Jenny was an intern in my days of Poo-Bah, we worked in an environment where the display of a sense of humor wasn't regarded like Bob Dylan's greatest hits at a Taliban convention. 

In fact, taking the pursuit of this, at the time, new position a little too seriously, I blew an exploratory interview with someone who was assigned to find out if I would fit into the culture, i.e. not take things too seriously and know how to have a little fun.

But I did trot out my eclectic view of the world and Jenny once laughed and said:

"I love your sense of humor."

Boy, didn't I puff up a bit.

"It reminds me of my dad."

Exhale quickly.  Look at forty being an eight iron shot away.

Ahem.  Another story for another day.

So a few weeks ago we ventured back to Dixie where we ate great food, talked to nice people, walked along the beach in the still warm Atlantic, and almost bought an old gas station to turn it into a just off campus gourmet fast food, free wi-fi and good beer to the over 21 crowd joint.  The estimated startup costs didn't work out since I don't think we can get that much if we sell the house, the cars, some lesser organs and the cats for medical experiments.

Travelling, they say, getting there is half the adventure.  I say, getting there is most of the pain in the ass time sink before you can park yourself in front of a plate of fried oysters and cold beer to go "Ahh."  Since we drove, I took a good look at the most obvious route and looked for alternatives since the most obvious route is the one the old man would have taken.  You know, the one where you're free falling in the back seat of the car while he blazes along for sixteen straight hours calling "Damn the bladders, full speed ahead!  We can make the beach by sunrise!" 

I thought I'd take Thumper along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel since she'd never seen it before and since I had fond memories of crossing it as a child; basking in the warm Virginia air and stopping on artificial islands to watch destroyers leave Norfolk for open waters.

That was then, this is now.  When you're a kid, you don't get the gravity of 12 miles of causeway over open water.  You think the weather is always warm and sunny and you're not driving through an advancing cold front with wind and buckets of rain.  You don't understand that a car is a one and a half ton chunk of metal that has about as much buoyancy as a window sash weight.

I will say this:   If you are in a car:

A car.

A land based transport device.

A car.

If you are in a car, thirty or so feet above a turbulent, pitching body of water, and you can see neither shore...

You're just asking for one or another kind of latent phobia to boil to the surface of your psyche.

Add to it all that, in the atlas, the road was designated as a four lane divided highway, young Randy McNally didn't bother to dig deeper and find out that that four lane divided highway ran through every podunk traffic light entitled town in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.  I believe my phrase was if the road sign had the word "Downtown" in it, we were heading the other way.

But we got there and we got back to find that neither Short Round and my mother, whom we had left alone together for the week, had found the hidden sharp objects and killed each other.

Although there may be some longer lasting psychological damage on Short Round when the subject of broccoli is raised.

But that is another story for another day.

Bunny on.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Only the Good...

This is more about me than about whom it should be.  Let me get that apology out of the way now.

A few years ago, I was a pooh-bah at a major magazine and in retrospect, employed in the best job I'd ever had and probably, until I flip off corporate America and open that martini bar in North Carolina, ever will.

A young twentysomething intern showed up one summer.  In addition to cutting her teeth on fundamental fact-checking and 200 word sidebar pieces, she was putting a capstone project together for her degree.  It was a piece on behind the scenes at a major magazine.

She was cute, sweet, smart and driven.  She was going to be a Writer, capital W intended.  She could also bat her beautiful eyes and make you momentarily forget about the ring on your left hand.

When she wasn't on line writing or on the phone with expert sources, she was running around with a camera taking pictures around the office.  More than once she'd snap off a shot in my editorial production meetings, usually pointing the lens at me just to piss me off.  We'd play a game; while she was getting a focus, I'd turn away, ruining the shot.  So she'd set up again and I'd turn away to piss her off.  It became a cat and mouse where she'd hide behind a staffer and discretely set up, then pop over a shoulder and get the picture of me.

My photo editor once ran a few rolls back from the developer to her but stopped in my office on the way first.

"Check this out."  she started laying down pictures our intern had taken.

"So what?"  I asked in my usual fog of ignorance about such things.

"Every third shot is of you.  She's got a major crush on you."  I've always needed beacons to get me through that fog and my editor was just that at the moment.  Ok, that was complimentary in an "Aw shucks" kind of way and I made a mental note not to encourage anything.  Not that I'm any kind of noble guy, I'm not.  But if I've learned one lesson from my childhood, its that I of all people am guaranteed to get caught with my hand in any kind of cookie jar.  Bar none.  If it shouldn't be done, I'll get caught doing it so why even try?

Summer moved on apace and Jenny was wrapping up her project, getting it ready to hand in.  She had the piece written and her photos taken and asked me what I thought of it.  The writing was fine because besides being talented all by herself she had tapped into the brain of our deputy editor who had shown her a thing or two that I have yet to learn today.  The presentation though was what you'd expect of a young student so I leveraged some old age and treachery to help her along.  My photo editor was only too happy to show her the basics of selection for composition, subject relevance and clarity and we got the stack of snapshots down to images that were worth a thousand words.  Then I scanned them and dropped them into a professional layout that we also flowed her text into and styled appropriately.  Finally, to make sure it was really as good as it could be I asked my designer to tweak it and she did, proving that "outstanding graphic design" and my name will never be used in the same sentence.

Jenny and I worked on the rudimentary layout of her piece after hours one night and she told me she really appreciated my help.  She may have batted her eyes as well.  She probably did because I remember being distinctly dizzy when I told her she had to do me a favor.  She said she would.

"One day, when you're at the top of your game, I want you to do exactly what I'm doing now.  I want you to recognize a young person with tremendous talent and potential and help them out."

"Ok." she said and we left it at that.

Her project got a top grade and a shortened excerpt of it was published in the local paper.  We stayed in touch sporadically and I'd Google her name now and then to see what she was up to.  She had a weekend job tending bar locally and when the soon to be ex-wife and I had the argument that ostensibly was the starting bell for the fight that would end our marriage I remember storming out, jumping in the car and driving up to the joint where Jenny was working.  I walked around the outside of the place for awhile but ultimately a man twenty years her senior sharing a failing marriage and a little company seemed like a contrived Harlequin romance and stupid to boot.  I drove home.

I asked her to join me at a writer's workshop a year or so later.  I was divorced and single and she had finally met someone who didn't drive her crazy.  Try as she might to age, she was still twenty years younger and when you've met someone who doesn't drive you crazy, its stupid to seek out someone who ultimately will.  We had coffee and I bade her good night.

Haven't seen her since although we had a few emails between us and from time to time I'd Google her to see what she was writing about.  Like today.

Its not going to be a good day when the top of the list is an entry that reads:  "Jenny:  Obituary."

She died in a car crash last April.

A few entries below all the bad shit you never want to read about anyone you ever cared about was a remembrance from someone she had befriended.  A writer.  She said how she had showed Jenny a few early pieces and how Jenny had gently told her that they were a little rough around the edges and worked with her to sharpen her style.  She was in her debt for that.

Farther into the remembrance, she also noted that she had just published her first novel.

Good bye Jenny.  I miss you.  Thanks for keeping your promise.

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