I never tire of being with the friends I’ve made in my 55+ community. They bring out the best in me, living for these finest of times. We have been called “the cruise ship on land”, “acting like college kids without the schoolwork” and “Sixtysomethings”. But this week, I had a reunion with people I had been close to some 40 years ago when I worked at The New Yorker (yes, The New Yorker). I credit my brother for getting us together as he worked there too and these were his friends as well. We all connected when he died much like they did in the movie “The Big Chill”.
I was only 23 when I got the job as the admin for the production manager, Sam. Sam was a smart man with a humble lifestyle but a character not unlike those depicted on the TV series Mad Men. No, he wasn’t Don Drapper (thank God) but maybe more like the the leader of the rat pack. Not being very observant at the interview, I later realized he played on a different field. He was a vice-president whose office had a bunch of hand-me-down furniture and on his wall were 4 framed black and white photos. Three of the photos were of his friends who were in the business. Under each photo was a title – The Enforcer, The Consigliere, The Don (Sam) and one of the magazine’s circulation manager with a question mark under his photo. I took the job anyway. At 23, it seemed like I belonged in this world of idiotic professionals.
And so I did. Like me, he did not have a college education and worked up through the ranks. At that time, you could be a rock star if you just worked at it. Sam did and I followed that lead. Eventually, I was promoted to Facilities Manager.
At this reunion there was a HR manager, a benefits manager, two computer technicians and me. The HR manger, Tony was a gem who cared about his staff and did what he could to look out for them while keeping them in line. Mary, the benefits manager was a strong woman who knew her job and knew what was right. Don’t cross her. They had moral values that carried into their work. Francisco, the computer technician, was an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who started out in the stockroom, wearing a suit every day and doing the work of ten men. He eventually was promoted to the IT department where he became close to the operator Sally who was also a gem. They married and are happily living in Brooklyn. I suggested they come to visit me in the country and her response was she preferred the rats and mice of the city to the cows and deers of the country.
As the facilities manager, it was my job to ensure the place ran like clockwork. I did but also had to get fine china for the new editor, new furniture for the new publisher and keep up with the changes that were occurring in a world that started out with humble beginnings and ended up with egomaniacs. That came after the magazine was bought by the conglomerate known as Conde Nast. We were simple people and I was not use to the self-admiration that I encountered in a world whose executives looked upon those below them as minions. They weren’t the gems I started with.
We at this reunion were all let go in some form or another. Mostly because they wanted to push out the old guard. But for this get-together, we all sat around toasting to the magazine’s 92 years telling stories of alcohol infused meetings, sexual infidelities between the mailroom boys and the admins, and friendships that have survived some 40 odd years. Yes, it was The New Yorker then. The magazine was highly regarded and highly profitable and not at all corporate-like. Somehow, the magazine survived and made money too. I’m glad I lived then and glad to have the stories and friendships I have from it now. Happy Anniversary.
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