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ex marks the spot
six months earlier
The e-mail arrived in my in-box as I was killing time adding books and CDs to my Amazon wish list that I would never buy. Starting a Dialogue with Your Inner Child's Child and The Best Latin Dance Party Hits of 1980-1990 ring any bells?
To: Carl Hanson
From: Nancy Teason
Subject: Department changes
I've been giving the changes we talked about some thought, and the topline is, Jen's just not ready for this kind of responsibility. She has tons of talent, and with the right kind of mentoring, I think she could be a managing editor in a year or two. Irregardless [sic] of the current budget freeze, I think we need to look out of house on this one. We can talk about it more but this is really my gut call.
p.s. Steve and I have tickets to the Giants game on Sunday. Interested in making it a foursome?
Nancy Teason, Director of Product Development
Technology Standard / TechStandard.com
I read it through several more times, heart pounding. My college roommate, who is now a practicing personal coach with two homes (Laguna Beach, California, and Old Saybrook, Connecticut) and two ex-husbands (both in L.A.), says that the important thing in times of stress is to isolate the thought attack and put it away in your "negativity closet." I have tried this method several times and have found that it is nowhere near as satisfying as imagining backing an SUV slowly over the backstabbing turncoat who has wronged you.
For about six weeks now, I've been going through the humiliating process of applying for my own job. Why do I think it's mine? Well, for one, my former boss, Jem Abbott Pierce (yes, that's really her name--Mayflower forebears), had the temerity to go have a baby and leave me stranded with her work. Not that I mind, since her job is infinitely more interesting than my own, what with the trips to L.A. in spring, New York in fall, and free shwag up the wazoo.
It just stands to reason that I, Jem's Fully Anointed Protege, am supposed to take her place when she invariably decides that darning pashmina shawls, painting landscapes of rotting barns, and nurturing her blue-blooded progeny are more important than covering high-tech news in Silicon Valley.
One Internet hiccup, and a message I was never intended to see found its way to my in-box. This happens, what, once every five years or so? Twenty? As there was something omenlike about this, I grabbed my spongy carpal-tunnel wrist ball and squeezed obsessively while staring out at the parking lot, hoping for a divine or at least everyday revelation. I considered my options: Forward dreaded message to Carl and cc Nancy Teason (Treason?) with a kind fyi at the top, and pretend ongoing ignorance while conducting a quietly dignified job search, which would hopefully offer me 387,000 instantly vesting stock options and an all-straight-male staff? Delete dreaded message and sublimate my rage into therapeutic massage and book club? Reply to dreaded message using colorful expletives, stomp over to Carl's office, urinate on the copier, and fling my meager belongings in a box?
In the end, I did what I always do when I'm panicked--I called Robert.
He answered before the first ring ended.
"O'Hanlon." Robert always sounds incredibly butch on the phone.
"It's me. You are not going to believe this."
"Try me." Keyboard clacking.
"Somehow an e-mail from Nancy to Carl was misrouted to me. They're not going to consider me for Jem's job." Tears at the back of my throat threatened to choke me. This only happens with Robert and my mother.
"Yes," I whispered.
I can hear Robert ordering his minions around in a charming, drill sergeant-esque kind of way. Robert is creative director at a trendy advertising agency in The City, and that, in addition to his brilliant wit, ridiculously handsome black Irish looks, and ambiguous sexual orientation, has everyone from junior copywriters to VPs in a constant dither to get his attention.
"Okay, I'm back. What are you going to do, lovey?"
"I don't know. I've worked hard for this, and I deserve it! It sucks, it just sucks . . ." Then I ranted a little more.
"Okay, what time is it?" he asked when I was done. I held my tongue on this one because most of Robert's non sequitur remarks end up somewhere good.
"Leave. Leave right now and meet me at work."
"I can't. I have to finish editing this week's bullpen and call some of the freelancers and--"
"No. Drop everything. It is absolutely essential that you leave immediately and take the special O'Hanlon job-fuck treatment."
Which is how I ended up puking in a gutter at three a.m., the Meredith Gazette editor's business card crumpled in the back pocket of my favorite jeans.
DK is one of those revoltingly hip bars where San Francisco's yuppies and fashionistas can, for the price of a few highballs, pretend that Manhattan has nothing on the Left Coast in matters of personal style and price gouging.
When I walked in at exactly 5:35 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, the dim space was mostly empty, with the exception of a couple of precious dyke girls with chin piercings and a tatty-looking guy with a skateboard talking to the bartender.
After guiding my battered VW Fox through seemingly endless traffic on Highway 101, I just had time to throw on my Lucky Brand jeans and a black turtleneck (professional mourning) and run some pomade through my short, curly hair in order to make it to the bar by 5:30. I had successfully talked Robert out of making me meet him at Kleiner Price by reminding him that their mailroom clerk, Andy, had a crush on me. What would it do to the poor boy's universe to see me looking like Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Naturally, Robert was late, so I grabbed a barstool and ordered a Sierra Nevada and a couple of shots of Cuervo Gold. I'm really not too much of a drinker, but there is something so cliched about the experience of getting dicked around by upper management while you toil haplessly away in cubeville that it seemed to demand an equally cliched response.
By 6:05, I'd killed the Sierra, three tequila shots, a handful of green olives, and was starting on my second Cape Cod. The bartender, a really nice guy named Zurik--like Switzerland!--was getting cuter by the minute, and the dyke babies in the corner weren't looking too bad either.
Robert finally walked in at 6:15, his overcoat flung over his arm, leather bookbag strapped across his very attractive chest. He threw everything in a heap under the bar and pulled me into his arms. It is at moments like these that the phrase gay husband leaps to mind, a concept that every woman over twenty-one living in an urban milieu should embrace and promulgate with fervor.
Finally, the dear man released me and did that head-nod thing that had Zurik in front of us in two seconds flat.
"What can I get you?"
"I'd have what she's having, but I want to be alive tomorrow," Robert said. "How about a vodka tonic? Stoli, please." Zurik nodded and sidled over to the part of the bar that housed alcohol that didn't taste like it came from Hawkeye's tent.
"How are you?"
"Okay, I guess. I just don't understand how they think I can stay if they don't promote me, which leads me to believe they don't want me to stay."
Robert made affirming noises, and we talked for a while about the feasibility of chucking everything and buying a charming villa with sex-crazed houseboys included in Cabo San Lucas (low), enrolling in a graduate program on a Caribbean island that is conducted entirely in English (slightly better), and ending up homeless and disease-riddled as we troll the sidewalks outside of our former offices (best). We sipped our drinks in silence for a minute.
"Robert O'Hanlon?" I glanced up to see a little gnome of a man in a horrible brown suit place his hand on Robert's shoulder.
"Bernie!" Robert jumped up and hugged the little guy like he was his long-lost dad (which he could have been, given the proclivities of Robert's gin-loving mother).
"It's been--how long?--six, seven years?" Robert pulled out a stool for the gnome.
"More like eight, I think." The gnome took off his brown polyester jacket to reveal a funky stars-'n'-stripes-motif short-sleeved shirt with a bona fide pocket protector.
"What are you doing here? I saw Nate Beckham at a conference about a year ago and he told me you were up in South Dakota or something," Robert said.
"Well, you're looking at the editor-in-chief of the Meredith Gazette. You probably didn't know I was from Montana, did you? We went back a couple of years ago when my mother took ill. Elaine wanted to get out of the city, and the kids were all gone away to college anyway." The gnome had a raspy, cigarette-cured voice. He looked a little like Harvey Keitel, but after a few drinks, who didn't?
"Amazing. I didn't know they let short Jewish guys into the state," Robert said.
The gnome laughed. "Oh, sure. But only if they can prove their parents are first cousins and they know how to shoot a moose at a hundred feet."
I leaned over and pressed my leg against Robert's under the counter. Robert turned to face me. "Oh, sorry. Bernie, this is my friend Jen Brenner. We worked together a couple of jobs ago here in San Francisco. She's an editor for the Tech Standard down on The Peninsula. Jen, this is Bernie Zweben. He was the managing editor at the Manhattan Business Journal when I was a copywriter there. We all worshiped Bernie. The man is an institution. His breakfasts are an institution." At this, Robert and Bernie slammed their glasses down hard enough to lose liquid and had a good laugh.
Robert wiped tears out of his eyes. "The Journal was famous for its blowout dinners with the financial folks. I mean, the guys from Morgan Stanley and the other Wall Street firms would drink like fish, and most of the reporters couldn't keep up the pace. Bernie would insist that we all be at work at the usual time the next day no matter what time we got home. But he'd always have a big eggs-and-sausages breakfast waiting for us when we got there."
"I still do it, you know, but it's caribou and venison instead of pork." When Bernie smiled he looked just like Harvey Keitel in Reservoir Dogs.
At this point, Robert and his new old best friend Bernie Zweben got into this deep conversation about: (1) old times; (2) drunk old times; and (3) drunk old times when you were on deadline. It was all pretty interesting, but I was feeling a little parched, so I called on Zurik again.
"Zurik!" Oops. Too loud. I leaned across Robert's lap. "Sorry, Bernie. I'm just trying to get our old friend bartender Zurik over here." Bernie nodded like he was right there with me. I really liked this guy.
Turned out Bernie was down for a conference of local newspaper editors in Oakland. He was staying with friends in The City, which is how he ended up at DK, which he had mistaken as the local dive bar (don't tell the fashionistas).
"So, Jen, Robert's been telling me you're having some problems at the Tech Standard. I'm looking for city reporters at the Gazette. Any interest?" Bernie asked.
"Are you guys thinking of relocating to, um, somewhere with sushi?" I parried.
"I hear they have sushi in Sun Valley, Idaho. For all the movie stars that are moving in, you know? That's only about seven hours' drive from Meredith." Bernie showed me his fangs.
"But seriously, it's a bitch recruiting talent up there. We've got the kids coming out of college in Bowman and Missoula, and a few escapees from the big city, but by and large it's a mom-and-pop operation. We've got one columnist who has been writing an unsyndicated etiquette column for forty-seven years. Can you imagine? I don't have the heart to let Madeleine go, and, truthfully, her column is pretty popular with the locals."
By now the potent blend of disappointment and alcohol had me ready to say yes to a street-sweeping gig in Tulsa, just so I never had to see Nancy and Carl again.
"Why don't you take my card and call me after you've had a chance to think it over?" Bernie dug a slightly dog-eared business card out of his pocket protector.
Robert chose that moment to leap up and stand between me and the door.
"What are you doing?" I asked him, ducking under his arm.
"Er, incoming. Door. Damon." Robert jerked his head toward the door.
Ah, Damon. Damon Sanchez is my ex. Ex-what, you ask? Answer: Ex-everything. We both grew up in Miami. I guess you could call us college sweethearts, but that would mean negating the many nights we flung bilingual insults at each other and sought refuge from the other's angst in everything from food and booze to blondes and bungee jumping. We moved out to San Francisco together and tore our way through four more years before survival instinct kicked in and we parted ways. Oh, there was also Kristina, whose sleek honey-blond ponytail and sleeker legs had Damon dreaming of a Cuban-Swedish merger even while he traded bonds on the stock-exchange floor where they both worked for Paine Webber.
Don't get me wrong--there were many good times too. Nights when we had just arrived in San Francisco and huddled together under our first down comforter, lulled by the fog and wind and fantastic multiethnic food that felt so foreign to us, weaned on the warm embrace of Miami.
Two years out isn't so long, is it? His smooth olive face and sweet grin could still stop my heart, and on the few occasions I'd seen him in public, my instinct was still to meet his eyes across the room and smile warmly at him. Generally, this feeling faded after a few moments and was replaced by thoughts like, Does Kristina still go to advanced step every day at the YMCA?
When a six-foot-two, black-haired hunk in a Zegna suit leaps wildly in front of his woman friend in a bar full of malnourished boys in capri pants, it's bound to attract attention, and Damon spotted us as quickly. Frantic, I tried to raise my attractiveness quotient by swiping at my mouth with lipstick and tucking my shirt in over what was surely a gross display of plumber's crack.
"Robert." Damon shook his hand firmly. "Good to see you."
Posted October 15, 2003
This book was a joy to read. While it started out a bit slowly and a bit juvenile for my tastes, it certainly picked up toward the middle. I loved the mixture of comical mystery with a budding romance and while I¿m not a romance reader myself, this book had just the perfect amount to keep me interested. I enjoyed the little tidbits of information given at the beginning of each chapter in the form of e-mails from characters to other characters you may or may not know. At times the plot seemed a bit too contrived, and a bit much like the Bridget Jones books, although the author does credit (via a footnote within the story) Helen Fielding. The book¿s ending was clean, complete, and happy. Who can ask for more when all you¿re looking for is a fun, fluffy book? I will certainly recommend this book for a fun, funny, quirky, and quick read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 28, 2010
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Posted March 3, 2011
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Posted November 2, 2008
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