Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Manhattan Transfer on Manhattan Transfer: Unlike any of you, I enjoy the facility for perfectly expressing my situation in conversation. Especially when I have a few in me. That is why I was able to respond to my annual job-performance review like this today:

Joe, I know I'm repeating myself, but I am a war employee. Do you remember how you felt on September 12, 2001? Do you remember how we didn't go to work for like a week? How they didn't even allow cars or foreigners into my neighborhood? How you forgot what the subway smelled like? And those first questions that raced through your mind: how much longer will the liquor store be open? Can I get whomever the fuck this is out of here before my girlfriend makes her way to my apartment? How long does it take to walk here from the Conde Nast building anyway? How much security does the diamond district really have? That's how I still feel every day.

I wake up every afternoon and get briefed by NY 1's Pat Kernan about the terrorist threats that menace this country, Janet Jackson's iron-clad nipple appearing on Christina Aguilera's implants and that model falling down at the Oscar De La Renta show. Pat Kernan reads me the papers about terrorists in countries who murder people whose relatives then chant anti-American slogans. I think that all of these are very strange people who I never want to hear about again, except the clumsy model who I've heard will be at Bungalow tonight.

I have staked my future on two propositions; my success in life will be about whether those propositions are true. The first is that the war on terror means I have to escalate my personal decadence. We cannot wait to purchase a Cartier tank watch or that bottle of Screaming Eagle because we are a nation at war. We cannot wait for our creditors to see things our way because we are a nation at war.

I made a decision that I needed more decadence every day, and that every sin I would commit—and I would obviously commit a shitload—would be a sin of commission, not a sin of omission. I would not repeat the "I did not have sex with that woman" mistakes of the previous decade. This decade, Joe, is all about fucking that woman.

The second proposition is that after 9/11, other people don't really matter. All that coming together, united and strong stuff, made me queasy. I concluded that this time, it's not about us--it's about me. Some of my co-workers have trouble embracing my egotism and decadence, and always think that if we could simply get our act together—okay, if I would get my act together—a lot more would get done around here. But I know that the problem lies in their feeble imaginations and peasant-level credit limits.

I'm not good at explaining what goes on in other people's heads unless I am very coked-up. But I know that my co-workers resent me coming in to work as they are thinking about ordering a salad to eat for lunch, and wonder what's in that thermos I keep in my desk and why I never seem to take any food with my meals.

I said I have found my mission and my moment, and it has cost me. It has cost me my American Express Platinum Card, which is now five months overdue. The secret of my success was that I had a very high credit rating, and Donald Trump-level abilities to borrow. But this mission has pushed me beyond those limits. I see my friends paying the brunch bill at Schiller's and I try to quietly slip outside for a cigarette. I wonder whether we've had enough to drink today they'll forget how much money I owe them. I know it's hard for them to understand why they must continue to pay for my decadence. Ernest Hemmingway was wrong cultural divide between the rich and the poor—sometimes the poor have more money and simply have to foot the bill for us rich types who are a bit over-extended right now.

I look around and observe that many of my fellow New Yorkers don't seem to be living on September 12, the way I am. They keep going to work, taking the subway rather than cabs, staying sober all day long, avoiding serious drug habits and giving a fuck about the people they are sleeping with. They don't feel this new age of decadence in their hearts and noses, and I don't know what drugs I should use to persuade them.

I look at the management at work and see that they have a low regard for my lifestyle. I've heard my supervisor accuse me of slacking off work. She seems to think that my job exists to please her or service our clients.

But she should understand that no assignment matters to me deeply unless it touches my faith in God. And, I'm sorry, but I am an atheist. I know my resume looked promising but mostly it was made up. I do feel called upon to go and welcome the new Hungarian receptionist in the fishnets to explain the glories of the free world.

I could lose this job. I don't know whether you were at that party with me last night. But I know stuff about you, the time you OD'd in the hot tub at the annual management retreat and that woman you were fucking while your wife was with the kids in Nantucket. I have no doubt you are going to do the right thing.

[The New York Times: David Brooks, Bush on Bush, Take 2.]