You think I’m going to pay $100,000 for you to sit in some communist bar playing with yourself and whining about the pain of existence? What kind of serious life experience do you have to tell about, Faulkner?”
“Well, remember that time you didn’t come to my seventh grade All Star Baseball game? That really hurt.”
I’d been trying to sell my father on the merits of attending graduate school for creative writing. Unfortunately, besides a serious case of flabby-office chair-ass and a small fortune to squander on his son’s education, my father’s career as a financial advisor had left him with little more than skepticism about any job that didn’t require commuting to an office.
“Listen, until you’ve had an inflamed prostate, you’re not qualified to write about pain. Think of a different future and call me back,” he replied.
Pawing at my old baseball mitt, I cursed the man. He did have a point about qualifications though. No matter what the future holds, be it Novelist, US Senator or Diesel Shift Supervisor, I figured it couldn’t hurt to update my resume.
As always, upon opening credentialexaggerations.doc, a vague anxiety washed over me. I realized I have significant philosophical issues with resumes. They’re so artificially cohesive, so concisely objective. Can a man’s essence really be summarized on a single page of leadership positions and bullet-pointed learning experiences?
What about the seats I gave up to old women on the T? The months spent considering becoming a vegetarian? The loyalty I demonstrated as a boy polishing my father’s corns with a pumice stone? Did all that amount to nothing more than two velvety smooth feet?
So then, would I play Hollie Hooker in The Man’s game of Climb the Corporate Ladder? Never! My humanity wasn’t for sale. But, I would play Peter Play Along Until You Find Any Possible Alternative Because You Need Food And Shelter. I drank away the bitter taste of integrity compromised with a tall glass of warm milk and continued experimenting with my margin widths.
My summer internships had brought me to that pivotal moment in every visionary’s life— having more BS accomplishments than I can fit on one page. I would have to cull through my volunteer work, internships, and awards to carefully extract my most marketable self. This can become complex. For example, what’s more impressive: founding a two-person book club or being elected Student Body Historian of Desert Mountain High School (running unopposed)?
As if organizing my resume hadn’t confused and trivialized me enough, I still had to choose a font. Was I a playful “Comic Sans” dandy or a more meat and potatoes “Arial” man? Unless I found one called “Neurotic Jew Bold,” I doubted that a font could adequately encapsulate my being.
I gave up on authenticity and got practical. I figured I needed a mature, savvy look to compensate for my inexperience. Eventually, I chose “Copperplate Gothic Light”— the Rolls Royce of fonts. Trust me, with this puppy I’d be foaming lattés in no time.
I called my father back to receive some positive reinforcement for my hard work.
“Hello?” he answered.
“Hey, so I…”
“Listen, I’m sorry I wasn’t at your baseball game but your mother and I were going through a difficult time back then. I love you, son.”
“It’s okay Dad. Your neglect has been the fuel for my best writing, I love you too.”
“If you put me in one of your little stories you’re out of the family.”
It’s nice knowing that, though my future remains uncertain, my therapist’s Wednesday afternoons will be booked for a long time to come.
“Mr. Blum, if you accept the creative director position you’ll be expected to think of cool things, doodle, and be happy often, if not constantly. The starting salary is a million a year plus vacations.”
“What’s your health plan like?” I asked.
In this economy, you can never be too careful about benefits.
Before I could find out about the dental plan, a seven-toned screaming filled my brain. At 7:32 a.m., I awoke, opened my eyes, and saw that my insomniac grandmother was calling me.
“Alex? It’s your Grandma Harriet. How are you sweetheart? I just came from a game of mahj with my friend Evelyn, you know, Mortie the surgeon’s wife? Her boy Leonard is a big money man out there in Boston and a real mensch. We arranged for you to meet him tomorrow to kibbitz and nosh. Maybe he’ll give you a job.”
You know you’re destined to be a businessman when your grandma has arranged a networking date for you before you’ve even woken up. She must have caught word through the family grapevine that I had creative aspirations for my future and taken action. For the Blums, the problem with “writer” is that it isn’t “neurosurgeon-lawyer-accountant.”
Dante should have included aneighth circle of hell for networking. To put it lightly, I wasn’t looking forward to the dinner. I envisioned sitting in a smoke filled bar for eternity between sweaty, bald men, unsuccessfully hitting on the waitresses and talking about their 401k plans. I didn’t even really know how to network.
The next day, in a black suit, I stared at my fragmented reflection in my bathroom’s cracked, full-length mirror, shattered last week during a rowdy lip-syncing/air-pianoing of Regina Spektor’s “Fidelity.”
“Damn, you look stunning, Blummer,” I said.
Nervous, this being my first formal foray into the world of ladder climbing, I tried to boost my confidence. Why looking hot for Leonard Schwartzenberg made me feel better is still not clear.
I arrived at the restaurant a bit early and began wondering what we could possibly talk about on a Friday night besides the inconvenience of having relatives who knew each other. I considered how I should act; figuring my usual date routine of stuttering and then asking them back to my place wouldn’t work here.
“Alex?” A fit looking, middle-aged man with a mostly-full head of brown hair said.
“Hi, are you Mr. Schwartzenberg?” I said.
“Only in the office,” he said. “Call me Lenny.”
Okay, he was a bit corny, but overall, not too bad.
At first we discussed the usual boring stuff— school, work, what I wanted to do in the future, etc.
Then, Schwartzenberg stuck out his foot from under the table and lifted his suit pants up to scratch his leg. He had what is perhaps the most gargantuan calf on the face of the earth. I mean this calf was so big you could chop it up and serve it as veal.
“I do a lot of running,” Lenny said.
“Oh, not like I do,” I said sportingly.
“Tell me that at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.”
“I’m training for the marathon too!”
This realization led to a good hour of lively conversation that we both seemed to enjoy. Before I knew it, I was pretending to want to pay for my half of the check. With our bellies full, we left.
“It was nice to meet you,” he said. “Be in touch and keep running.”
My spirits were high.
“Race you to that street light,” I said
“No,” he said. “No thank you.”