I often think I must have imagined that whole *real world* thing.
We talked about how I used to be part of the corporate world in Boston before it began to interfere with my art. It’s hard to imagine those days when I would run home from work and remove my suits and nylons and get busy. In my 15 years in Boston I worked in a lot of different corporate settings because I was doing what I was supposed to do, as I understood it.
My first job after college was at a large women’s clothing retailer and I struggled to fit in. It felt like playing grownup. As an entry level half-person, my pay was low yet I was expected to not only wear suity things every day but to also wear nylons. Runs were frowned upon. Every run meant another 4$ pair of nylons. I tried every trick I heard of including washing them and freezing them to increase durability. I always carried clear nail polish in my (empty) briefcase and tried to stop runs as soon as they began. Arriving at work with a run in my nylons often elicited a, “Do you know you have a run?”, to which I’d feign surprise. Then I’d have to explain how this run I allegedly didn’t know about already had clear nail polish on it. I learned to lose the surprised act and explain that it happened getting into the car and I fixed it at a stop light.
The dress code was well-defined: no sleevelessness, no open toe shoes, no shoes that showed toe cleavage and so on. Once, when the whole advertising department was gathered around a table in the common area for an informal meeting, a snarky girl said loudly, “Are those staples holding your hem up?” I had actually been proud of my innovative measure to fix a hem in a bind, till everyone laughed.
At that job I learned that those girls in the after school specials all now work at large retailer of women’s clothing.
We had lots of vendors who always stopped at the nearby Mr Donut and got a box of assorted on their way in with press proofs. No one else would eat them so I pretty much had donut carte blanche, which seemed an enviable perk at the time. At holidays they brought Godiva chocolates which came with diagrams which was great because then I’d not accidentally get one with walnuts.
Once I got to go on a photo shoot for an ad. It was in a big loft in NY. We ordered cappuccinos by the dozens and delivery people brought them. And lunch was catered in and served in stainless steel chafing dishes with sterno below. During a break the photographer napped on a couch and people seemed to disappear so one of the models and I amused ourselves by throwing brownies out the window at the sidewalk people 11 flights below. It’s not like we had anything against the people – it was because the brownies had walnuts.
The other model spent the break fighting with her boyfriend on the phone. They were real people.
Another time a vendor sent a private plane to pick a bunch of people up and whisk them off to West Virginia for an overnight visit and tour of their printing plant and somehow I managed to go along. The plane was a Piper-something. When we arrived at the little airport south of Boston it was a downpour with a very scary thunder and lightning storm. Being the lowest on the totem pole and because everyone was nervous, I was ordered to sit up front with the pilot because there were only exactly enough seats including that one.
It was kinda scary at first but as soon as we were in the air the pilot made us feel at ease by pointing out that under each set was a refrigerated drawer with assorted alcohol. After a lot of alcohol people got over flying in a storm and saw that the pilot and I were having a blast in the front so I was ordered to a seat in the back.
But the alcohol made everyone have to go and the bathroom was this funny thing with a tube and a funnel, in the back of this little 8 seater plane, with only a sliding pleated plastic door. No one wanted to be first so I was ordered to use the bathroom. After that everyone felt comfortable using it. I was not your average Girl Friday.
The head person of this big printing company took us out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. We had a private room in the back like you see in the movies. He had extraordinary manners and was very charming. He was from Germany I think. Anyway – part of his mannerliness seemed to consist of extending hosterly duties and so he asked that someone choose the wines. No one wanted to do it so I was ordered to make the choices, by way of a suggestive comment followed by a kick under the table.
The wine list had no prices so I couldn’t use that trick but I had worked in a snooty restaurant where I had to wear a tux so I recognized some of the wines the owners used to order when I had to wait on them. I figured they had taste since they had money. I was 21. Although word was that they were totally mafia so maybe they didn’t have good taste? At any rate, our host smiled graciously when I chose a Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a Pouilly-Fuissé. I felt sure I had pronounced the wines competently but again, I was mimicking the mafia guys whose restaurant I had worked at.
Now I don’t wear suits and I wear things till there is no use left, which would explain the jeans I am wearing on the cover of Dean Nimmer’s book.
Since that book photo, I have new old jeans. The Goodwill Store in the Haight is the best place to get cheap used jeans. But of course I need to fly to get there so maybe it’s not such a bargain. That Piper-Something private plane would be handy for shopping trips to the Goodwill Store in the Haight.
Looking back it seems such a long strange trip.