Friday, September 9, 2016

A Kid in a Candy Store

For me it was like walking through the dugout past Mickey, Yogi and Whitey. There they were, Gail, Nick and Frank. Part of Murderer's Row, or as the public commonly refers to them, op ed writers for the New York Times.
Having spent almost every morning over these past years in a very one sided relationship with Gail Collins, Nicholas Kristof, Frank Bruni and others in the lineup from Paul Krugman to David Brooks, Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Charles Blow and Ross Douthat, I felt like I knew them intimately. I wondered if any of them read the letter's section of their paper, if any of them ever commented to themselves about one of my critiques of a column they wrote. But I couldn't ask, as I was but a guest in their home.

I had called Sue earlier in the day, told her I was working on her street (which I was, even though it was sort of on the opposite side of the city) and asked if I could stop by later. When I met up with her I advised that, apart from my wife, she and Tom knew more about my thoughts and feelings than anyone. She chuckled. Sue, Tom and Mary comprise the team of editors in the letters department of the Times. 

My son said I must have been like a kid in a candy store. I can only imagine my permanent grin as Sue escorted me around, showing me a little of the layout of the letters page for tomorrow's paper, telling me who resided in what office or cubicle. There the reporters sat, over there the video equipment for the on-line pieces. 

In some way I think Sue was as anxious to meet me as I was to finally be face to face with her. Who, after all, was this man who corresponded with her several days a week for nearly a decade? When the elevator door opened was she surprised to see a small, bald, semi-old man emerge? And was she disappointed that I was certainly much smarter, much more erudite on paper than I was in person? If she was, she hid it well, making me feel more like an honored guest than a wide eyed interloper. 

It is a very strange obsession that has attached to my being. There can be but a few handful of others like me who have made a passionate, long term commitment to writing to the New York Times.  Sue and I spoke of a possible gathering in the future of our small group of the most persistent. Where we can exchange our tales, discuss the hours spent revealing our thoughts to strangers, sizing up our competition. And maybe even meeting the Babe Ruth of our team, Felicia. If I have hit a few home runs over the years, Felicia has smacked hundreds.

When it was time to leave and I finally let Sue get back to her job, there was more than a touch of sadness. When I walked out into the street I was no longer that guy whose letters showed up regularly in the New York Times, but just another nameless person walking back to his car, fighting the traffic on the West Side Highway, heading home for the evening. 

But oh what a glorious tale I had to tell. Me, Frank, Gail and Nick, together at last. Imagining, as I strolled by, one of them exclaiming, "is that really Nussbaum? Do you think I could talk to him for a minute?"

The way it was always meant to be.


Bob Labrie said...

Semi-old also means that you're semi-young.

Michael Gansl said...

I admire your passion, and your dedication and commitment!

Anonymous said...

I love this.


Anonymous said...

Very nice.


Anonymous said...

Ahh, how fun. I was given a tour of the New York Times production rooms when I was a boy. They used linotype machines to put the words on the page and still had a period in their masthead. I've heard stories how they once had a hyphen in the masthead too!


Anonymous said...

Great piece.


Anonymous said...

You are a very special, talented writer. Keep up the superb work.

Anonymous said...

A NYT Groupie!!


Anonymous said...

This is awesome

Paul Bilsky said...

Sounds like a fun way to spend a day. You deserve it