Sunday, July 10, 2011
In the City of Fate
I am aware that I lead a strange life in many ways.
Most people do not, for instance, pack up a bag of clothing and head out to a strange city they've only visited twice before. Most people do not, upon their arrival in that city, begin an internship at a prestigious literary agency, start work at a movie theater, embark on a search for a guitarist, and commence fielding prospective employment opportunities from advertising agencies. None of it is that weird where I'm concerned, though.
These are just the kind of things that happen to me.
One month into my stay in the City of Fate my journey has branched out in several directions, some of them unexpected. My time at Book Agency is going well, or at least I imagine it is. It's kind of hard to tell, really; Literary Agent is either more abrupt or less socially conscious than I anticipated, and his lack of feedback on assignments has been a source of frustration to me and the other intern working under him. At points I've asked specifically for clarification and on more than one occasion gotten snappy with him in response to his misinterpreting me.
While the more seasoned professionals among you may deem such conduct to be inadvisable, he seems to enjoy it on some level. One of the first things he told me when I came on was that I mustn't be afraid to push back at him.
He really had my number when he mused, "Somehow, I don't think that's going to be a problem with you."
Literary Agent continues to accept materials from me without comment, but he also continues to send me boatloads of manuscripts while burying the other intern, Sun Dress Girl, in marketing research. I am taking this, optimistically, to mean that he trusts my judgement with regard to literature. The only time he tends to voice any opinion at all is when he has a significant objection.
"Okay," he responded to a letter I recently wrote beseeching a famous actor to write a memoir and then let the Book Agency represent it. "This is way too bland. Give me specifics: why does the world need to hear this story?"
In these rare moments of criticism Literary Agent is blunt without being rude, and so at present I'm content to plug away and hope I'm moving in the right direction.
Of late, my efforts to perform well at the Book Agency have been distracted by my exertions in another profession: sweeping.
I receive a great deal of personal satisfaction from my work at the Book Agency but I do not, sadly, receive any money and so have been obliged to seek sustenance elsewhere. The effort to find work, carried out as it was in the nation's largest city, proved more difficult I imagined, and my initial inability to land a job nearly resulted in my returning to Southern State early. After about a month of searching, however, I was able to secure employment in, of all places, a movie theater.
Those of you who are longtime readers will remember that I worked in Western City Movie Theater, an establishment near Mountain Town, for nearly two years. It seemed to make sense that, when in pursuit of easy labor and quick money, I would turn here to a movie theater as well.
Mid-Island Movie Theater is populated by people of the same age as those in Western City Movie Theater, though the general hue is somewhat darker and the attitude more gregarious. That's something I've noticed since coming here: for all the good press that the South gets about its hospitality, I have found people in the North to, on the whole, be better mannered, more courteous, and more familiar with the basic rules of civility than their Southern counterparts. The people here are nicer.
One excellent way to gauge this is to examine how those individuals in a socially superior position treat those in a socially inferior position. During my time at Western City Movie Theater I experienced some truly audacious handling from patrons who knew no demographic commonality; from semi-literate rednecks to insufferable nouveau riche professionals, each group seemed to have a set of representatives united only in their entitlement and rudeness. By contrast, most of the people I've seen here have demonstrated a surprising amount of maturity.
If there is a line, they wait in it. They don't berate some helpless underage employee with their idiotic whining, because they know that the staff are working their hardest and that complaining won't speed anything up. When they are helped, they express gratitude. When asked how they are doing, they engage (as opposed to simply ignoring the greeting and intoning the name of the movie they're seeing, which is how I once got "Drag Me to Hell" in response to "How are you?").
All of this leads me to believe that we've overindulged Middle America. Everyone, from elected officials to movie studios to television networks to pop singers, has pandered to these people, and the objects of the fawning have become the cultural equivalent of spoiled children as a result. I've never been one for corporal punishment, but if it were up to me we would correct these infants with a heavy hand.
Whether the customers I interact with are courteous or not, the money I'm receiving from the Mid-Island Movie Theater should prove helpful in paying my rent, which I became responsible for on June 15th.
After two weeks of sleeping on Gay Writer's couch, I moved my things in the middle of June to the apartment one floor down that had been vacated when its owners embarked on a six-month trip to Africa.
I knew the place was nice by City of Fate standards, but didn't become aware of just how true that was until I hosted a friend this afternoon.
"Holy shit!" she exclaimed when she walked through the door. "This is huge!"
"Really?" I laughed. I had no basis for comparison.
"Yeah," she said. "How much is the rent?"
The actual rent is $2,500.00, but what I'm paying, thanks to a deal negotiated by Gay Writer, is $600.00.
I like it well enough.
I have a spacious living room (with eminent furnishings that have given me an unearned reputation for good taste), a full kitchen, a bathroom, a master bedroom with perhaps the softest bed that has ever existed, a washer and dryer for convenient laundry, and a guest room for when I host.
At first, lonely in a new city and intimidated by having so much space to myself, I was loath to leave my neighbors' couch. Almost immediately upon moving into my new quarters, however, I began to appreciate the benefits that solitary living offered. For one thing, the perennial feeling of awkwardness I'd had upstairs was gone; the Runner and Gay Writer welcomed me into their home without reservation, but when you don't go out because you have no friends you begin to feel like a third wheel in a married couple's house. Another plus is my ability to make my own schedule. Up until the move, I was cautious at night, timidly quiet lest I should wake anyone. Now I stay up until all hours, typing away on my keyboard, watching movies, making food, and even occasionally doing vocal exercises (something I indulged in several nights ago at the strident time of 2:30a.m.).
My departure is probably for the best on several counts. Gay Writer got a bit too friendly for comfort one night, attempting to make a move on me while his husband lay asleep down the hall. He then justified the conduct by telling me I was "just a boy," informed me that there was a "difference between love and sex," and explained that while he might be gay he was "still a man."
It was all quite charming.
In the meantime, this apartment will be mine until the middle of August and possibly even longer.
Before I wrote professional opportunities off during my job application blitz I sent in materials to an advertising agency. I dismissed the possibility of employment there when I didn't hear back from them for several weeks, but about a month following my initial e-mail, after I'd already started at Mid-Island Movie Theater, I received a message from the company inviting me to call them. When I did, the greeting given me was enthusiastic.
"Hey, I was really impressed by your samples and cover letter," a company official told me. "We're looking for someone to serve as a full-time copywriter and we'd be pretty negotiable on giving you a salary that's enough to live off of in the City of Fate."
My interview is on Tuesday. Depending on how that goes, I might not be leaving in August after all.