On the NYT and Me (Alternate Title: For Papa Kellz)
Every time I log onto Facebook, it prompts me to make it my homepage. “Want to see what your friends are up to as soon as you go online?” No, actually, I don’t, and my Facebook friends list has already gotten awkward enough that I have hidden several people from my newsfeed because a glimpse of their crooked smile as tagged in a photo or a quick readthrough of a Facebook status that denotes that they’re out drinking with girls and not, like in my daydreams, home pining over me and price checking the complete selection of 30 Rock on DVD so they can purchase it and win me back actually pains me inside and THAT’S NOT WHAT I ASKED FOR, ZUCK. I just wanted a simple timesuck, not an emotional workout. Forget Facebook, I’m going to download Diner Dash again.
Facebook is not my homepage. It never will be. For as long as I can remember, so at least a semester, it has been the Opinion section of the New York Times. My first snort of the Opinion crack (that’s not a good metaphor, is it?) came with Gandhi Wuz Robbed, by Maureen Dowd. Dowd painted a caricature of Obama (or “President Paris Hilton”) as D.C.’s new it-boy, turning the Nobel Peace prize into a popularity contest, with a fake phone call between Dubya and Clinton providing the backdrop. ‘This is the New York Times,’ (imagine I said the title in my snooty voice) ‘people are allowed to do that?’ My incredulousness didn’t lie with her fictitious phone-hacking, but that the Times would allow a z in its headline. Incredible.
MoDo got me hooked, and I became a willing disciple of her and the rest of the section, bumping it up to homepage status when I took another Borer class. Dowd is easily the most talked-about columnist, and easily my favorite—and if you read her, you’ll find out why. But the rest are great too, and I read them daily, unless they’re talking about the economy. They, as a collective, are the archetype of a writer—well-rounded, solid audience, many dissenters, a constant paycheck. They’re the some of the most well-respected writers in the world, and they’re my type of guys.
At the start of my Opinion love, there were 11 columnists: Dowd, Gail Collins, Nicholas Kristoff, Bob Herbert, Charles M. Blow, Frank Rich, David Brooks, Roger Cohen, Ross Douthat, Thomas Friedman, and Paul Krugman. The landscape has changed in the past six or seven months, including the departure of Frank Rich to, of all things, a magazine—but it’s mine! Frank Rich is now employed by New York, and he has a cubicle that he’s never at. Our shared tenure at the magazine, however—his first day was my first day, although I wasn’t greeted with a bouquet of flowers, but it’s fine—has resulted in a strong, long-lasting friendship of Person Who is Too Important to Be in the Office and Intern Who Checks His Voicemail. Four times a week, Frank Rich and I email back and forth about the copies of TIME and Fortune he has on his desk and phone calls I return for him. Once, an excited man who thought he had a story for Frich, as I lovingly call him (on my notepad), CC-ed me on an email full of documents. Silly man, I’m just an intern! Frich is super nice, though. We talk about the weather sometimes. I’ve never met him in person.
My other NYT columnist run in has been with none other than Charles M. Blow, Remaining Black Guy and the clear winner in Best Picture. Our friendship first flourished when we got into a Twitter argument over the use of the word ‘very,’ (he was for it; I’m vehemently against), tweets of which I am printing out and including as a job reference. Then, walking from the G train, I spotted a familiar face. “KELLZ,” I stage whispered. “I think that’s the guy from the New York Times!” She looked. “Where?” “AHH DON’T LOOK.” I tweeted instead: “May have seen Charles M. Blow and/or a random black guy.” It was him.
Last Friday, I was sitting at my favorite place in the world, Madiba, the South African restaurant around the corner from my apartment, when Charles M. Blow tweeted a complaint about the heat in Madiba. I yelped. I tweeted back: “I officially see @CharlesMBlow everywhere. Sup madiba” He responded with some song lyrics, which was weird. But still. A real, live, possibly underpaid writer was sitting feet from me. I ushered my party outside so I could find him, create a connection, pass on some of my writing, get some advice, ask for a reference—the writing world was mine. But I got too scared and just stared at him for an hour before he got up and drove away in his Mercedes. He’s skinnier than I thought.
My roommates and I are embroiled in a celebrity sighting contest: the tallies were once drawn in chalk on our living room wall, but we couldn’t wash it off and had to paint over it and you can still see it a little, so it’s mental now. Sadly, Meaghan works in Brooklyn, so she’s practically out; but I count my NYT sightings to be equal with Rachel’s of Shia LeBouf and Tyrese in Bryant Park, if not more, because, really, Tyrese? With every tweet and voicemail and random restaurant in Brooklyn, I’ve encountered more examples, more ‘celebrities,’ more real-life writers than I would’ve imagined. It’s corny, but it’s true, and it’s supremely exciting. Also, I got published in the magazine, which I suppose makes me a real writer too. Summer is almost over, my sublet will soon expire, and the paper is mine again, for real this time. Life is moving pretty fast, and I’m trying to stop and look around before I miss it. Chik, chik chik chickahhhh.
ADDENDUM: After posting this, I go to Frich’s desk to check his mail before I leave. There’s someone sitting there, which is not out of the norm, since writers will take his spot if their computers are on the fritz. I lean over the guy and say, “I just need to grab something– WOW, YOU’RE FRANK RICH!” We shook hands and had a lovely conversation and he’s heard “good things about Conn College.” He had very warm hands.