Day Jobs

When Amanda McCormick offered me a one-day job that paid about twice what I usually get paid in a week, I jumped.

And by jumped I mean I got the email, waited a few days, got a text from Amanda, asked for more information and then eventually said I was interested, waited for another text and then finally said yes.

Apparently this “strategy” worked because somewhere along the way my pricetag got bumped up (through no fault of my own), to which I replied a one-word email (“cool”) and then proceeded to ask Amanda if there was a catch:

“One,” she said. “You have to wear a suit.”

“Done.” I replied.

Now, to anyone reading these passages, the fact that I even got this job might seem fairly parodic.

I showed none of the verve I usually do during a job hunt (“I check Mandy more often than I check my email.” I told a friend recently), I responded in non-sequitur exchanges and I even said “cool” in an email to a potential employer instead of the more formal “that sounds like an exciting opportunity”.

“cool”!

To be fair, I had some history with Amanda, I used to be one of her writers for the Film Society of Lincoln Center blog, an unpaid, but worthwhile gig I ignominiously screwed up through a mixture of neglect and perennial lateness with articles. And while she had passed along a compliment to me that the people from the Human Rights Watch Film Festival were “specifically impressed” with my coverage and mentioned me by name, the last time I was supposed to write anything for her was a piece on “Neil Young Trunk Show” that I got wasted at on the complimentary Stella Artois (this is the high-society Film Society we’re talkin’ bout here) and spent the next day too hungover to write about the film, which promptly finished its screening run, thus negating any benefit to my article.

But Amanda was a tenacious one. She liked me and had stuck by me, even retweeting some web-vids I was in using her much followed FilmLinc account and taking me out to lunches at Shake Shack and the Julliard cafeteria.

She even came out to a karaoke reunion I had planned for the New Music Mondays crowd I used to hang out with at Planet Rose.

“Dude, she’s a babe.” Ro-beardo Malone had told me upon meeting her. “She DTF?” (The definition, unmentionable even on these pages, for those who don’t know.)

“Dude, that’s her boyfriend there next to her.” I replied.

There indeed, next to her, was a hipster-y looking fellow who Amanda had introduced as her boyfriend who apparently had some sort of job involving artisanally-brewed beer.

“Dude,” Rob concluded, with a grand beard-stroking. “That doesn’t change the question.”

To be fair to Amanda, I think I did a good job.

The event was a fancy gala for Michael Douglas, a fund-raiser/show-off to show that Film Society was associated with important people. The job was just camera operating, standing by a stationary HDV camera, the most difficult part of which was panning to try to catch up with Danny DeVito, apparently a good friend of Michael Douglas, who I was informed “does not do podiums”.

“It’s a height thing.”

I white balanced, I recorded to a few different decks. I even corrected the event planning people, using my nifty walkie-headset, who almost introduced Milos Forman as “My-Losh”.

All in all, it was a good solid day of work, with nice people and not a lot to do. There was even free beer and a make your own sundae bar after the show, though for some reason they had neither vanilla nor chocolate for your sundae (“Wild Raspberry, Peach or Pistachio.” I was told with a disapproving glance.)

The only downside of the whole thing, really, was the food. I had dropped by the Time Warner Center earlier in the day on my lunch break to try to seek asylum from the food desert of the Upper West Side. I ended up in the arms of Landmarc, a midprice restaurant at the center, which produced for me one of the word grilled chicken sandwiches I’ve ever eaten.

“Does it come with french fries?” I asked the bartender, my server, who was mostly ignoring me for a southern couple he was chatting up.

“It comes with a salad.” He told me.

“A good salad?” I asked.

“Terrible.” He replied and went back to chatting with the southerners.

The salad ended up being fine (endive, etc) but the sandwich itself was a mess, laden with gooey roasted red peppers and caramelized onions that were too gloppy to allow an actual bite out of them and smoked mozzarella that clashed with the onions and peppers. The chicken itself was fine, but bland without any of its accoutrements and I almost felt tempted to either ask for ketchup or leave and get chinese food. I ended up doing neither though and finished my sandwich and headed back.

Later on, when I did get Chinese food, from Ollie’s, it was also gloppy and heavy and I couldn’t even finish half of it as I went back from my dinner break just as about as disgusted.

The only saving grace, foodwise, of that day was a little gem I spotted at Bouchon Bakery on my way out notably called a “”Fugheddaboutit”.

Needing to get the taste of overcooked onion out of my mouth, Bouchon Bakery, next door to Landmarc, seemed a good bet.

What originally caught my eye was a cartwheel-shaped cream-filled cookie called a “TKO” which, after inquiring, I found out stood for Thomas Keller Oreo, though who Thomas Keller is I couldn’t tell you.

But when I saw these little things, that reminded of milk-chocolate Mallomars, I inquired about them.

“Would you buy one if you were me?” I asked the clerk with a meaningful stare.

“Yes.” She told me quickly.

And like former president George W. Bush once described, through her eyes, I saw her chocolate-eating soul.

“One please.” I requested.

It ended up being not a Mallomar, but a mini Rice-Krispie treat, coated in caramel, milk chocolate and a little sea-salt on top.

And boy, it was delicious.

And that picture doesn’t even do it justice.

Fugheddaboutit.

Or don’t.

***

“You know you’re wearing a Magic t-shirt while playing Magic Online.”

“Out of shirts.” I replied briefly, without turning to look from the screen.

Matt Chao had come by, on invitation I had offered 7 hours before and had brought along Kent Hu, my old friend and occasional seeing-a-play-mate.

And now I was forcing them to watch me play Magic Online.

I had been addicted to the online card game for about 1-2 months between my stint at Colbert and my intern gig that led to my current job. Magic had the comfort of being familiar, something that I sought solace in in the past, and also a good way to exercise frustration with its elements of competition, winning and losing.

Now, shamefully, sadly, I had sunk back into it as my despair with my current job seemed to expand rapidly.

I had almost given up on communicating with my bosses, who seemed alternately to ignore me when I was asking critical questions about the film, only to return my calls not to address the pressing, but to do personal favors for them, like fixing their email, or printers, or checkbooks.They also had a habit of disappearing for days and days to foreign countries or film festivals, or other places that seemed to be rubbed in my face.

Even on my days off, on weekends or days I’m on other jobs, they hound me with similar personal demands, now wanting to talk to me, only when it’s not the time I am paid for. I’ve taken to various coping methods, strategic ignorance, impassioned emails, successive phone calls, but it still wore away at me.

The sad thing though as I sat in my apartment playing Magic with two ABCs (American-Born-Chinese, a Matt Chao-preferred term) sitting on my bed, the sad part was, in a way, I was doing the best out of all of them.

Kent got paid more, but worked in a mailroom, at an organization where his career was at the whim of mercurial agents and he lived at home with his family, trying to pay back suddenly due student loans.

Matt had been interning for PBS for over two years now, a position he had fought to get, and whose hard work and modesty had somehow convinced his bosses that he would never have to be promoted because he would never leave and thus had him passed over for paying jobs again and again.

We all sat around and griped as I tried to finish my Magic matches. Kent talked enviously about someone who had gone from grunt-work to a multi-Oscar winning cast for their newly-greenlit feature in a matter of weeks. Matt talked about the doc he was working on and the producer who offered to try to get him a position before Matt felt too bad to ask. I, for my part, lost my games of Magic eventually and we went out to get food.

In the weeks past, I’ve contacted people I’ve interviewed with. People I’ve worked with. I’ve applied to jobs on Mandy and Craigslist. I’ve sent gifts and said hi. I even ran into Bethenny Frankel of all people on the sidewalk, whom I interviewed with to be her on-air/off-air reality-show assistant. Her husband had recognized me from across the street, as I stumbled around the sidewalk with a hangover and too many pimples. She told me my interview made the show and that I had come off well and asked for my card, which I gave her, as well as a recommendation on where to eat on the Lower East Side. I even found out that she hired the guy I thought she did for the show: an intense, short, gay Jew I met as I was getting my bag, who told me he had worked for Scott Rudin. She told me he was good on TV, but she wish she had hired me. It was nice, I guess. But it wasn’t a job.

As always, I’m left wondering what to do. Today, one of my interns told me she was going to work on a feature for 20 days for a low-rate. When she told me how much, I swallowed and didn’t mention the fact that even though it was a low rate, she’d be getting paid more than me. I told her to ask the bosses, after to checking to make sure she was still on board on the film. Later, I got yelled at for not “talking her out of” paying work, when she was getting paid nothing with no reimbursements, for a job she worked at for several months with my level of experience.

“This is why I don’t tell you things.” My boss informed me.

After that, panning to follow Danny DeVito on a locked-off tripod, seemed like zen.

***

BOUCHON BAKERY

Fugheddaboutit- approximately $4.00 with tax included

Broadway bet. 59th and 60th Sts,

ABCD1 to 59th St- Columbus Circle

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2 Responses to Day Jobs

  1. Lisa says:

    Thomas Keller (born October 14, 1955) is an American chef, restaurateur, and cookbook writer. He and his landmark Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry in Yountville, California, have won multiple awards from the James Beard Foundation, notably the Best California Chef in 1996, and the Best Chef in America in 1997. The restaurant is a perennial winner in the annual Restaurant Magazine list of the Top 50 Restaurants of the World.

    In 2005, he was awarded the three star rating in the inaugural Michelin Guide for newest venture in NYC (see below*). In 2006, he was awarded three stars in the inaugural Michelin Guide to the Bay Area for The French Laundry. He is the only American chef to have been awarded simultaneous three star Michelin ratings for two different restaurants. He is also the chef at the restaurant at which your dad made the sommelier cry (and where we are celebrating Sumit’s birthday on Monday, Memorial Day), Per Se*.
    I love your blog but I love you more. xxxxx.

  2. Matt says:

    Your bosses are… and I’ll leave it at that. Also, I see you’ve failed to mention how I work at night, but that’s a minor detail. Getting back to the point, take your job with a grain of salt. Be responsible, but when something beyond your control, or seemingly in this case, beyond normal reasoning, goes wrong, don’t worry about it.

    All in all, this is a long convoluted way of saying “separate your work life from your personal life.” and hell, at the least, use your misery to write a script. You should have been there for a Sam Pollard nugget of wisdom last year.

    “What makes a good artist?”

    “I don’t know Sam, discipline? Creativity?”

    “Misery”

    “Misery?”

    “Misery”

    and so if you don’t know, now you know. <– +10 points of you can tell me what song I'm quoting that from.

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