Wayne Michael Reich

Writing ∙ Photography ∙ Art

My Life on the Blacklist PT. 3 (The Card of Destiny)

“Seriously- Amy Silverman’s sole creative writing talent is her resume.”- Anonymous New Times Staffer, said to yours truly over an awesome Russian dinner.

In 1930’s Announcer’s Voice: “When we last left him, our determined artist had just arrived at the location of his date with Destiny, also known as the offices of the PHX New Times.

Why? To meet with Amy Silverman, Managing Editor, and hopefully start a dialogue about why New Times sucks gargantuan donkey wahonga in regards to it’s local arts coverage. Also- might I just add, that he looks darn good in that artsy oufit of his!”

Wouldn’t life be much more interesting if we all had a narrator for the cool parts? Sigh- an Artbitch can dream.

“Heady stuff indeed!” Oh… you’re still here, Announcer Dude? “You bet I am, my Prophet of Artistic Snark!”

 Gee, thanks for the love! “Not a problem- I’m just so happy to be working here!”  Um yeah, About that? I’m really sorry, but I don’t have any more work for you- it’s a budget thing. I feel awful…I really do.

“Well gosh darnit- that just completely bites!”

However, my friend Scott P ‘Doc’ Vaughn does have an awesome web comic that might be able to use a noir themed guy- pop on over and drop my name at: bombshelterzine.com/wordpress; and good luck.

“Thanks Wayne! Keep fighting the good fight!” You betcha!

Where were we? Ah, yes. My date with Destiny.

There I was, 20 minutes early for my meeting- walking into the hallowed waiting room of the Phoenix New Times building, it’s gently curved receptionist desk beckoning “Welcome!” as I announced myself to the seated dude from classified ad sales who was “only watching the desk until the regular chick gets back from her lunch”. Taking our seats, my GF Ashley and I lightly joked about how Amy Silverman. [aka: New Times Managing Editor] would react upon meeting me- would she embrace my opinion or just have me shot on sight?

We found out soon enough, when Amy Silverman. [aka: New Times Managing Editor] descended from her journalistic ivory tower, [10 minutes late] clunked through the set of security doors, and greeted us. Actually, “greeted” is probably not the proper description I should use, for Amy briefly glanced in our direction, and then proceeded to engage the “just back from lunch” receptionist in almost five minutes of painfully vapid small talk centering on the reception desk’s new paint job.

 Amy hated it, the receptionist loved it. I know! I was riveted myself. So, after getting that much more important discussion off the table, Amy comes fully around the desk and I get my first glimpse of her. This promptly causes an immediate epiphany, or might I even dare say- a vision of sorts. Sadly, it was not a vision where you receive a glimpse of your Future, while conversing with God, nor was it a moment of true clarity wherein you finally understand how Keanu Reeves keeps getting work. Really- does Matthew McConaughey turn down that many scripts?

[Questions for another time, if I were to hazard a guess.]

No, I am afraid that this vision was anything but enlightening.

Gazing upon a woman in her late 40’s with frizzy hair wearing a cotton jersey dress, the first impression was that on her rather ample pear-shaped form, she most closely resembled toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube. And I’m being kind, because trust me- you haven’t heard the strangest part yet.

Now, before you decide to get all crazy sister and stuff, I will state one thing- I would never ever take a shot at a woman because of her weight. It is a cheap shot, and it is downright sexist. For unless you have the body of a Greek bronzed god, you are just asking for a case of whup-ass to be opened when such a base comment issues forth from your lips.That said, I also believe if you are dressing inappropriately for your age / weight / gender, some very nice Fashionista should take you aside and say:“Honey? No…just stop. We’re gonna show you how to dress yourself and actually look good for a change.”

By way of example, I will offer up a personal confession. Back in the day, I used to wear vinyl.

I liked it, I looked good wearing it, and attention [aka: cute Goth girls] always came my way when I was wearing it.Then one day, somewhere around the age of 33, I think, I was heading out to the local Goth bar and out of the corner of my eye, glimpsed my reflection in the hallway mirror. And beheld a James Hetfield look-alike stuffed into a sausage casing.

It was not a pretty or proud moment, I will admit.

Nevertheless, the next day I accepted the inevitable, and gave my vinyl to someone who could still pull that look off. I have been told that the pants have been very lucky for him- their legacy lives on. Currently, I am 41 and only weigh 18 more pounds then when I was in high school, or to relate it in simpler terms- I have only gained 1.27 pounds every year since I graduated.

What is the point of this vanity-based rambling you ask? It is this: learn to age with dignity, and realize that even if you cannot wear what you used to back in your 20’s, with a little reshuffling of your wardrobe- you can still look good in your 40’s. You do not have to dress like your parents, but if you can accept the fact that your age and waist size are now the same, you are well on your way to making a full recovery.

This brings us back to NT’s waiting room. As Amy approaches us, I notice two slightly disturbing things: she’s wearing black “sparkly” chucks, making her feet look like they’re encased in gothic disco balls, and what’s worse, these are the oh so cutesy types that a 14-year-old girl would wear while breathlessly clutching her DVD copy of Twilight. 

Go, Team Jacob! Sue me- I like wolves. And the other small detail that my keen ESP senses?

Amy is transmitting TRIPLE PLATINUM PLATED BITCH like a freaking radio station. Her attitude was not unexpected, as I did bitch-slap NT rather hard- the result being that they came off looking rather petty and stupid. Using their own metaphorical sword, I might add with just a small pinch of glee. If our roles were reversed, I know that I would definitely be looking for some payback- however if I was, my revenge outfit of choice would definitely not make me look like an overstuffed potato sack. [While true that potatoes are bad for Diabetics, they do not overly threaten me in any way, shape, or form.]

Forgive the digression, but since I had never met Amy before, there was no previously traveled path for me to follow- but the cutesy footwear was a tragic sign that I was obviously dealing with someone who considers herself “hip”. Nevertheless, the situation was not without hope, right?

I do have some defenses, and the one quality I possess in buckets is this-I am actually quite gregarious in person, and that quality usually helps in smoothing things over. And when the personality doesn’t work, I turn on the “smolder”. Or I resort to chloroform. Either way, I’m not picky. Even people who despise me, will grudgingly tell you that underneath it all, I am actually a very nice person, so really- I was not worried at the time. Why should I have been?

Certainly, I could use all those people skills to win this person over- once we started talking all this bad blood would be sopped up with the mop of professionalism, or so I thought. *

[*I know- it is a weak analogy, but I do most of my writing between Midnight and 4 A.M., and after a while, I do tend to get somewhat loopy. I apologize, I really do.]

Apparently, on this day however, I had left all my people skills at home on top of the TV. In addition, the well-honed “smolder” had run into its unforeseen version of Kryptonite: that type of particularly impenetrable female known as “a truly frigid bitch”. On the up side, the chocolate chip cookies were no longer in danger of melting, and when you’ve spent seven dollars on cookies, that is turning a frown upside down, let me tell you.

Once again, we return to the waiting room. As Amy strides over, I rise up and say [while giving my best “pleased to meetcha” smile] in a semi theatrical voice: “You must be the Silverman” while extending my hand to shake hers. Fixing me with what can only be described as a look of “Go F**k yourself”, she introduces herself in a voice tinged with ice: “Hello, I’m Amy Silverman, the Managing Editor of the New Times”, offering her hand as if to shake mine.

However, that is not what happened- not by a long shot. Instead, Amy jams her business card into my outstretched palm so hard; I thought it was going to come out the back of my hand.

Passive- aggressive much, mademoiselle? So, looking down, unreturned handshake hanging in the empty air, her business card face up on my palm, a painful paper cut narrowly avoided, I am instantly irritated on three levels:

ONE: Not returning an offered handshake under the context of a business meeting is discourteous, if not completely unprofessional.

TWO: She just assumes I have an empty space in my Rolodex? The only word for that is pretentious, and I would never sacrifice a space that has been reserved for my favorite Chinese joint for this condescending ice queen.

THREE: I already knew who she was, we did have a two o’clock meeting scheduled after all, and there is the small and almost insignificant fact that SHE HAD JUST TOLD ME HER NAME AND POSITION no less than 10 seconds earlier.

Despite the near-death experience [and subsequent memory loss] last July, I still do possess a greater than 9 second memory retention rate, shockingly enough. Now, I will admit that Artists as a whole can sometimes be a rather spacey lot- generally, this Artbitch is not usually considered one of them, unless Ding Dongs are somehow involved. Moreover, I am not referring to the one whom at that time- was standing in front of me. However- I let all that go, because I was there to open a dialogue that once established, would be beneficial to both parties.

Or so I thought.

So smiling even bigger, and maturely overlooking the unprofessional curtness- I thank Amy, and then turn to Ashley, asking her to hold on to the card for me. The first thought being that no matter how this meeting went, I could always use another bookmark. Attempting to seize the moment, I go to introduce Ashley to Amy, but without another word being uttered, she turns on a sparkly heel and heads back towards the security doors from whence she emerged at a brisk pace.

Naturally, I follow.

In a failed attempt to lighten her mood, I call attention to the cookies I brought as we enter the doorway, stating that:”I am a man of my word”, and she looks at my cookie bearing hand as if I am holding the director’s cut of Bio Dome. We proceed to go down a long narrow hallway, Amy walking slightly faster than me – and I don’t know if NT was trying to save money on electricity, but there seemed to be no AC, and the corridor had virtually no illumination.

So, starting to feel tense, I proceed to crack a joke as we are walking:  “How many rooms do they have you crammed into here?”[ The building seems quite spacious, hence the small joke] Normally, most people would have politely giggled at this, but Amy just shoots a hostile sideways glance, and instantaneously, the bitch radio wave cranks up another 1000 watts. Slowly, the fact that this frosty bitch-ball is going to require a whole lot of thawing time begins to dawn.

Turning into a stairwell, Amy motions that we are heading upstairs. So that’s what stairs are for- who knew? All these years I have been using ladders to get to my 3rd floor apartment, and I could have just used these things. I guess it’s true what they say- you learn something new every day. Upon reaching the landing, we turn into a conference room- like the halls below; there are no lights on, and as far as I can ascertain, no AC as well.

Seems like a charming little place to have a meeting. I guess the company sauna was booked.

I walk in and find a seat, placing my chocolate chip peace offering on the long table, as Amy fumbles looking for the light switch. Eventually she finds one, illuminating a single light above the table, which casts a cone directly above our respective seating positions. Just like the “sit down” sequence of The Godfather, but without the personal warmth.

Sitting down, she reiterates her title and position and inquires as to what the issue is that I seem to have with Claire Lawton- a reasonable question, I thought. I then proceed to inform her of the back-story that involved Peter Petrisko’s original online comment that got this whole ball rolling, the reactive online article that Steve Jansen wrote, and how the posted comments on said story were obviously favoring my blog, whose readership I then alluded to.

Feigning a look of incredulousness, Amy interrupts and asks: “You have 500, 000 readers? That’s amazing.” Chuckling politely, I clarify my statement by repeating that I usually averaged 500 to 1000 readers per blog- not 500,000, lightly joking that if I did have that kind of readership neither one of us would be in this particular meeting right now, and I would have a much nicer house than the one I currently inhabit. One with a hardwood floor, of course.

The response to that little joke? I thought I heard crickets chirping, but I cannot swear to this. This was becoming one tough room to work, let me tell you. After having tackled the issue of Amy’s selective hearing, I mention the approximately 400 emails that I had received, the majority supporting my position that NT needs to improve their local arts coverage.

Pressing on, I quote the corporate adage “that if one person says something, ten feel the same way”, in an attempt to impress upon Amy that many NT readers seemingly agree with my point of view, if not my unique method of delivering that message.Discrediting that my position was based upon any jealousy relating to lack of exposure in NT, I briefly touch upon the articles I had been featured in, giving focused relevance to the photographic works I provided [pro bono] for their “Wrecking Phoenix  aka: Tear Down Town” cover story.

Closing, I add that career wise, I have never been media dependent, and other than the free publicity I had been receiving that week, NT has never been a factor in my exposure- until now.

Amy just sits there the entire time looking like a carp sucking on a lemon. What’s even worse- the peace cookies have remained untouched.This strikes as odd, because Amy looks like she really enjoys cookies. A lot.

Therefore, I guess what I have heard about having a huge ego is true- you’ll never go hungry, since you’re always so full of yourself. Trying to smooth out what appears to be an increasingly bumpy road, I decide to use those well-honed people skills I mentioned earlier, by telling Amy that I appreciated her commenting on my online article.

Declaring how nice it was to see the “big wig” become involved, I ask exactly what her position responsibilities entail, and in doing so- I seem to hit a nerve. Staring stonily at the wall behind me, Amy goes on to explain that she is in charge of “Jackalope Ranch”, which is NT’s online culture blog, the primary mission of which is to report on the cultural activities of PHX’s art and music communities.

She expands upon her narrative by saying that she is Claire Lawton’s direct supervisor, and is therefore ultimately responsible for the literary content of the magazine, although she does admit to not reading every article that is published, which in and of itself, is not an unrealistic admission.

Editing that amount of content on a weekly basis is a demanding job mentally, as well as physically- and I do realize that. Taking an unbidden tangent, without any form of prompting I might add, she reiterates her title and position and then flatly states: “It’s printed on the masthead- you can read it if you like on your way out” Apparently, the passive aggressive card is out on the table and in play again.

So now, I have been told who (and what) she is thrice in 15 minutes- from this, I could only surmise that the bitch network was still on the air and broadcasting with fewer commercial interruptions. My favorite snack- a trio of Ego served cold on a silver platter. Why she felt the need to keep reminding who she was/is still puzzles, I have to admit, and with all due respect- do I look like a fucking goldfish?

Ooh- pretty Building! Where am I? Ooh- pretty building! Where am I? Ooh- pretty building! Where am I? Ooh- pretty building! Where am I? Ooh- pretty building! Where am I? Ooh- ARE THOSE COOKIES? Ooh- pretty Building! Where am I? Ooh- pretty building! Where am I? Ooh- pretty Building!

Unfazed, I press forward, informing Amy that in no way do I represent the PHX Arts community save for my own small corner, but speaking from personal experience, among PHX creatives- the general opinion of NT is one of disparagement. Referring to Amy’s online comment about NT’s print edition having “limited space” for arts coverage, I present a mélange of stories that NT had published that I believed were not exactly the best use of NT’s so-called “limited space”.

This point I will defend to the death- metaphorically speaking, of course. Yet again, you need examples.Therefore, I apologize in advance. Go to NT’s website and enter any of the following phrases:

“Of Ice and Men: How Bro Icing Got Out of Hand at Phoenix New Times” “Milestones in Bieberdom: Historic Moments in the Life and Career of Teen Idol Justin Bieber”  “9 Tips For Using a Fake ID to Get into a Show” “Bouncer Confidential” “What are you wearing” “How Frankie Muniz’s Girlfriend Elycia Marie Became My Internet Nemesis”

Yep, that is some excellent use of the “limited space” right there, don’t you think? [Sadly, there is no shortage of “stories” like the ones listed above.]

In addition, does it not also strike as odd that NT would have “limited space” in regards to Jackalope Ranch? That’s right, NT’s INTERNET version apparently has “limited space” for local arts coverage, but has plenty of room for tripe like the articles referenced above. Playing the last card in my bag of tricks, I suggested an option or two that might allow NT to gain a few pages of space that could be then devoted to the arts.

Watching Amy’s reaction, I can tell that my suggestions have gone through her like corn through a two year old- perfectly intact and virtually untouched. Amy leans forward, eyes glazed over with indifference, and states how “nice” it is that NT has such a “dedicated reader”, in a voice dripping with sugared venom. Shocking as it may seem, I think she was being sarcastic- and that just hurts. Because as we all know, I simply cannot handle rejection, and sitting there- it feels like I am at Cactus High School asking Kim Bowman to go to the Prom all over again.

Except Kim was you know, actually hot and interesting? Amy‘s summation was right on the mark however- I really am a dedicated reader, no matter what NT’s Music Editor Martin Cizmar says. [Come to think of it Martin, other than Krispy Kreme, does anyone really care what you think? And by the way, how many hours a week do you devote to responding back to anyone who insults you? Obsess much? Seriously- check out his thin-skinned candy ass whining, it is hilarious.]

Maybe I am way off base here, but the point of publishing a weekly magazine is to attract a solid base of “dedicated readers” is it not? Or is the point as simple as that Amy just likes seeing her name in print? An issue for another blog, I dare think.

On that note, I think a break is in order. I would suggest grabbing a yummy donut while you wait. It’s what Martin always does.

“Laziness has become the chief characteristic of journalism, displacing incompetence.”– Kingsley Amis