Manhattan 2005, part 5


A year ago last month, The New York Times invited me to try out as a copy editor. I filed these travel dispatches originally by e-mail. [part one | two | three | four | five | six | seven]

Sin of not moving

I don’t have a lunch scheduled till 3, but I’m doing some chores instead of getting out and about.

I’m frustrated with a different media company. The folks in New York don’t want to see me, even though I’m next door. I’m not kidding: I would go out the apartment building entrance, turn right, and the next door is the company headquarters.

See the big difference between being wooed and wooing someone?

I push my way through the milling throngs to make lunch on time.

This is the big one.

We head to lunch at Brewery Doodleâ„¢, which I find out later is where she takes all the candidates. I do my spiel, I eat my salmon sandwich, I spill a little Diet Coke on me. (I spilled a lot on the table when eating with S.)

Really, I swear, this is not a blog about lunches in Manhattan. But food is a hot topic. The day before at lunch, the two copy editors kidded about the reviewers’ expense accounts, running up enormous tabs (“Barney, remember how I said I’d have to send your bar tab to NASA …”). Except, they weren’t kidding.

Pay no attention to the 16 men behind the curtain

After lunch, after printing out 20 pages of memos, we head to the 4:30 Page 1 meeting. Again, similar, but different.

Nineteen editors are around a big oval conference table, 16 men and 3 women (I only count one Asian, a female). We’re seated around the perimeter with other editors, visitors, observers. When I’m introduced, the culture editor jokingly asks if I was on that jury (meaning Scrushy). “I tried,” I said.

They pitch their stories, and on the screen is the Times front page. Of the Web site. Hello, 21st century.

My patron has helpfully drawn a diagram naming all the editors at the table. I had suggested slapping big signs on the backs of their heads, instead.

The talk is still over the Times’ Judy Miller and the other reporter at Time. I’m more interested in Bank of America buying out MBNA (issuer of my card).

The screen displays possible photos for next day stories. Some interesting, some filling space.

After the meeting, I remember to ask my diversity question. Not that that roomful of editors doesn’t resemble the rooms of editors at most papers.

Three and out

I’m down to my last three stories to edit. Typically, one’s easy, requiring a light touch. One’s medium, but no sweat. Then there’s the PITA, usually a rewrite because the reporter doesn’t know his press pass from a hole in the ground.

Still, I manage to slip out for Ben and Jerry’s. New York Super Fudge Chunk, which here is called Super Fudge Chunk. Get it?

It’s beginning to hit me that what I really got was a crash course in editing. Not only were the folks nice to me, they made me better at my job.

One copy editor, whom I hadn’t met yet, comes up to chat. His wife used to work at the P-H, just as I was coming on board. Let me tell you: Don’t burn a single bridge in the industry, because it will haunt you. Earlier, my patron had mentioned her boss had ended up with her at the Times and even the paper before.

S. checks on me, and I tell him he’s one of my references. It only makes sense. He points out that G., another copy editor who’s made it a point to ask me about my day, is also chef Tony Bourdain’s mom. I love Tony, I love “A Cook’s Tour” on the Food Network, and now he’s got a show based on his book “Kitchen Confidential” on Fox this fall.

The copy editor next to me may be having some kind of personal and/or professional crisis. The best I can muster is a “bless you” when she sneezes.

It’s midnight, and I file the last story, still a little unsure of that one. Time to turn back into a pumpkin.

Most of the copy desk has cleared out. Usually, I left while they were still fixing the late late edition.

I pack up, take the elevator down, and out the revolving door into a cool summer evening.

If this is the end of my Times’ career, it has been a blessed one.

Walking these streets forlorn

Gotta make my last comped meal a good one. I wander around, block after block. Some of the nastiness on the sidewalks (trash, vomit, more trash, more vomit) is more New Orleans than New York.

Most places’ kitchens are closed, though one host helpfully points me to a 24-hour place.

Heading north, I pass a very familiar deli, the Hello Deli, around the corner from … the Ed Sullivan Theater.

I saw Dave in his old home at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, but haven’t caught the new show. But, it’s cool to see the “Late Show” marquee lit up.

Just across the street and round the corner is Maison, and it is very open and I am famished.

I take a table outside, as has most everyone. It is a beautiful summer evening, cool, romantic, lovely. I finally drop the tie, remove the jacket, and jot off some postcards. The server is a bit behind, but oh well, my drink is here and it is soothing.

I am surrounded by tall buildings and late-night diners and the cool air. It is perfect.

The roasted chicken, the potatoes and asparagus command my attention, devoured with only a little restraint. A creme brulee completes the repast.

All is possible.

Back in my apartment, I don’t want to go to sleep. I don’t think I can go to sleep.


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