Just a heads up. I wrote this in 2007 for another site and cross-posted here, but the link's dead now. It was a post in response to one of the myriad of exposed fantasists working as "journalists" in the mid 2000's. Unfortunately, as we now know, this was the rule not the exception. Over the years so many high profile journalists have been caught out, from the NYT, Washington Post, Philly Inquirer, AJC, CNN, NBC, etc... that it's not too much of a stretch to believe that every story you read or watch is bullshit. Straight-up crap. The "story" means more than the truth. Narrative will prevail.
Anyway, this guy wanted to be a writer. He was a liar, but his stories were "too good to check". They fell in line with what people read in books and saw in movies, so they "must" be true, right? I read the stories and noticed a stark similarity in style to Jay McInerney, and that, coupled with the revelation that his girlfriend was a fact-checker for the magazine he successfully bullshitted (and a long overnight stay at the Philly airport) put me in mind of "Bright Lights, Big City".
No one reads those books any more. Literary cultural touchstones from the 80's and 90's are long gone, replaced with kid's movies. It's kinda shocking. At any rate, it is no wonder that no one got the joke.
The subway is about 30 degrees hotter than the street today, you remember someone telling you it was because of the air conditioners on the cars blowing hot air into the tunnels. It’s one fact out of many you could have used lately, that story on Climate Change and its effect on commuters needed lots of work, but it’s easy to find people nowadays who’ll answer most any Climate Change question in the affirmative as long as the idiots who drive Suburbans are getting the shit end of the stick. You get off at Metro Center and pass the spot where you saw the girl puking gallons of Red Bull and vodka last night on the way home from Capitol City Brewing. You feel a little ashamed that you can’t remember her face, but you do remember seeing her panties when she bent over. She was probably cute, but then, you think, if she was cute, why was she alone?
The homeless guy at H Street still hasn’t figured out that the white things in your ears mean you can’t hear him. You’ve got Modest Mouse on your iPod turned up just high enough to drown him out and to make sure everyone within 5 feet can tell exactly how hip you are.
Amy meets you in the lobby, she looks like she hasn’t slept and she’s got dandruff. She’s obviously excited, “Foer wants to see you. Yesterday.” So much for sleeping off your hangover. As you head toward the elevator you watch Amy run-walk away and vaguely wonder what it would be like to have sex with someone with lordosis.
Foer finds you in the hallway, “You find me someone who killed a dog with a Bradley. I know there is one, you find him. Talk to the guy who built the damn thing if you have to. I want this by six.” He practically throws a pile of paper at you and storms off down the hallway. The hallways are always freezing cold, so you head off to the coffee room.
The smell of hazelnut coffee and microwave popcorn is so strong in here it’s practically solid, like a Jell-O mold with a bulletin board, a table and a cheap refrigerator. The Bolivian Marching powder you used to wake up has, believe it or not, already worn off, so you snort a rail off of “How to Report Sexual Harassment: What to do if you feel uncomfortable at work” one of the thousands of pamphlets that cover the tiny Formica table that no one ever uses. Feeling better you drop two envelopes of Swiss Miss into your travel mug and fill it to the rim with the Starbucks knockoff the coffee service supplies. You need Starbucks, but last night put a hit on your wallet and besides, didn’t Starbucks start a riot when you were in middle school? They killed like what, a hundred people in Seattle right? Then chopped down all those trees?
You grab the stack of paper that Foer had shoved at you and wander over to your cube; Amy is back at her desk, mumbling into her headset about the number of out-of-wedlock babies born to Evangelical Christians. A big number you guess, from where you stand you can almost see Amy’s bra and you wonder what her nipples look like. She almost catches you staring, but one of her dreadlocks gets caught in her funky square glasses and she’s distracted.
You sit and turn on the desktop and wonder for the millionth time why they haven’t given you a laptop when you could get so much more work done. It takes a while to boot up, so you grab a copy of yesterday’s Post and a cup of water and head to the can. You pass the IT guy in the hallway, he’s carrying a TV sized monitor for some bigwig and you thank God you went to college for something useful.
Forty minutes later and five pounds lighter your back in your cube, reading and replying to the seventy emails you’ve already got from your roommates and your Fantasy League. There’s one from your brother, but you’re not going to read that one until after lunch. You update your blog, fix your fantasy stats and read Wonkette, TMZ, Bill Simmons and Defamer. Then you get into a really funny email thread with your roommates about Lindsay Lohan and if you’d rather have sex with her or the field hockey player from GW who passed out at your last house party. You plug your iPod headphones into your speakers and surf YouTube for a while until you feel someone looking at you. It’s Amy, she says its 1:30 and she’s taking a late lunch. You nod and wonder what it would be like to have sex with someone who had a tattoo on her face.
Someone’s cooking a Lean Cusine in the coffee room microwave and the smell of burned frozen broccoli starts your stomach churning. You burp stale Jaeger and realize that you haven’t eaten anything since two in the morning and you need some grease if you hope to keep last night where it belongs. You’re at the elevators in a flash, but before you can get on you hear a knock at the class doors that separate the elevator lobby from the cube farm. It’s Foer again, he’s muffled but you can hear him, “Well?” he shouts, ”Did you find it?” You give him thumbs up and yell, “Happens all the time!” just as the elevator opens. You grin at him and rush into the elevator.
One thing about the city you like is the choices. Lunch can be an adventure: Chinese, Italian, Indian, a Jewish Deli, Thai and Vietnamese food. Why, you think, would anyone want to live without this kind of diversity? You pass all of these incredible choices as you rush to Wendy’s to wait in the interminable line for your Double cheeseburger, small Chili and large Frosty to go.
By three o’clock you’re back at your desk reading a slideshow on million-dollar neighborhoods on MSN. Mom lives in one that’s where you grew up; Dad lives in a co-op downtown with a doorman and off-street parking. You and your roommates live in a three-bedroom townhouse you rent from your roommate Ken’s brother, who’s in the Navy and never uses it, even when he’s in town because he’s got a steady girlfriend. You wonder for a few seconds what it must be like to have sex with someone in the Navy.
You’re seriously coming down now and need a pick-me-up so you head off to the coffee room to blast a few more rails. The Bolivian Marching Powder is doing it’s job better than all of the Ritalin you took through school and you suddenly realize that if you don’t figure out how to run over a dog you’re going to spend all day at work, that’s unacceptable. After all, you have a life.
Back at your desk you look over the papers you got from Foer, it’s Army stuff. Some kind of tank named after the late, great Ed Bradley. You saw a videotaped speech by him Junior year in your Journalism and Ethics class. He was on a panel with William Goldman and the Dustin Hoffman character from “All Along the Watchtower.” Awesome movie, almost as good as “Hook”.
Tanks. What are you supposed to know about tanks? You email all of your friends, none of them know anything about tanks and you’ve got two hours before Foer hands you your ass. Time to break out the big guns, Google and Wikipedia. From Google you get Tank Wars, a Shockwave game that eats up 45 minute, but at least you know you can slide a tank around a turn. From Wikipedia you find out that a Bradley is not a tank. That sucks.
From your email you get a line from one of your roommates on a guy who was on your floor who was ROTC so you send him an email and ask if he has ever seen a dog get run over by a Bradley. He answers in the affirmative, all tough-guy Army that the dogs were “chalk outlines”. That’s so cool. You wonder what it would be like to be so tough and cool. You print his email off and use a combination of Google and Wikipedia to find out who makes the Bradley and what their phone number is. It’s getting close to five, but you call anyway, get a guy and ask, point-blank, “Can you run over a dog with a Bradley?” The answer is yes, you confirm, write it up and Jam it into Foer’s inbox and are out the door by five-ten. You are a ROCK STAR.