Excerpt from Episode 3: Summering
With a little help from his idol, Jon Paul lands a new job in the Big Apple.
Three weeks after moving into my East Village apartment, I tried settling into my new life in Manhattan, but it seemed like the April rains would never end, and the money had already run out. My dog-eared TimeOut NYC guide had suggestions for low-cost entertainment and pointed me to a nondescript building struggling to make a name for itself sandwiched between its much taller brethren on West 52nd street. The Museum of Television & Radio archived almost all television shows in history—including my Holy Grail, the most important series ever to plant itself firmly in the imagination of a fey boy growing up in the wilds of Dallas. I shook off the rain, and marched confidently inside and up to the counter. The portly librarian with hair pulled back in an up-do and a “Relive the Moments” button on her jacket rolled her eyes—she had been through this before.
“I’m here to see Mary Tyler Moore,” I announced.
I handed her the same request for the first episode of MTM on this, my thirteenth visit to the museum. My free entertainment and escape from the madcap life of the city that never sleeps was watching the first episode of MTM in the museum archives just a few blocks away from my dreary temp job. It was before TiVOs and DVRs, and the whole rudimentary playback technology fascinated me. I handed to the librarian a slip of paper with my selection. She assigned me a cubby, and a few minutes later, as if by magic, the first episode appeared on a monitor. Mary, Phyllis, Rhoda, Lou—they were my reliable companions and trusted guides to life.
Just like MTM, my sitcom life had lovable friends and a great apartment set, but it was missing the glamorous job. I was getting by working for test prep giant Kaplan and was drowning in a depressing soup of acronyms—ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT. The problem was that I wasn’t sure what I was qualified to do. Most of my life I wandered from interest to interest relying on my brains and good attitude to get by. While that worked well in famously slacker Austin, New York seemed to require more focused ambition, something my father had once informed me I lacked.
One late night over pierogies at Leshko’s, our now go-to Seinfeld diner, Angela gave me a job-hunting lecture.
“Listen, it’s all about connections. I work for a connected lady who has more clients than she can handle. And I can’t handle all the work by myself.”
She sipped her coffee, and I noticed a tiny cockroach running under the ketchup bottle and looked the other way. Roaches were bigger in Texas.
“I think it would be fun working together. Don’t you?” Angela asked.
I sipped the addictive bitter coffee—a cup o’ joe was soothing in Texas. But here it was my pick-me-up drug of choice; I counted on it giving me the necessary jolt of energy for surviving the pace of this hectic town.
“I’m not really sure what you do. And your boss sounds crazy,” I said.
“She’s dramatic. It’s public relations. What do you expect?”
Angela motioned for the check—discussion closed.
A week later, I was at the East 53rd Street upscale Italian hang out San Pietro sipping my first-ever glass of Pinot Grigio at an outside table, enjoying the oncoming slight chill of an early summer afternoon. Women teetering on impossibly high patent leather pumps rushed by with oversized dark brown shopping bags from the Gucci flagship store nearby. I was keeping a lookout for its chief designer and sex symbol Tom Ford during my job interview with Angela’s boss Madame—think sophistication of Candice Bergen with the sex drive of Candace Bushnell. This whole scene was more like the city of my dreams than my dreary Kaplan desk blocks away.
“That’s Charles over there. We dated for a while. You know him, right?”
Madame waved her too-tanned arm with Cartier tennis bracelet and matching diamond rings at the too-tanned Charles across the line-up of packed-in bistro tables. I shook my head “no.” She sighed.
“Well he controls the most important economic development agency around. You have to go through him to get anything done in this town. Appointed by the governor, also a friend, of course.”
She repositioned the cream-colored summer cashmere sweater around her shoulders. We never wore sweaters past March in Texas.
“Hello Al! See you next week! Aren’t you looking younger than ever?”
Madame waved suggestively at an older wrinkly Italian gentleman with thinning hair. I shuddered; he was far from alluring yet Madame was acting like a sex kitten in heat. Angela piped up.
“That’s Senator Alfonse D’Amato. We’re organizing a fundraiser for him next week. You should come.”
“Over my dead Democratic body,” I laughed.
Madame took a gulp of wine, staring me down through her Jackie O. sunglasses, not amused. Angela chimed in to cut the tension.
“Jon Paul’s Dad is a federal judge in Texas. Appointed by Carter. Jon Paul knows Democrats inside and out.”
She was stretching the truth, and I flinched at the mention of my Dad. He was powerful, but had never run for office in his life, which meant that other than Ann Richards, I couldn’t name another Texas Democratic politician. But Angela knew how to publicize my credentials.
“I think Jon Paul would be perfect as a press person for our favorite client.”
Angela flashed me a grin. I smiled back. Madame took another sip of wine, basking in the fading sun, tired of being hounded.
“Fine. He’s hired. Anything to keep Angela happy.”
Miraculously, I had just landed a new job in the world of public relations—an industry I knew little about.