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Friday, May 4, 2018

A Night at the New York Times

There was an angry mob gathered on the 15th floor of the New York Times building last evening. The crowd, close to forty strong, vented their mounting frustration at the speaker who sat before them. He was an editor of the Op Ed pages of this venerable newspaper and he had personally wronged virtually all who filled the room.

We had assembled at the invitation of the Times. We were those men and women who had most often badgered the editors of the Letters page into submission. Our names had appeared with repetition as authors of letters worthy of publication. We were simply the best of the best, or so our egos reported. We were there for our accomplishments to be noted and applauded. Thank you, the New York Times was saying, for saving us from ruin.

And yet those in charge of the Op Ed page had clearly not received the memo about how accomplished each of us was. The questioning of the speaker began politely enough. What is the secret handshake needed to move from the left page to the right? Is it a wink and a nod, a $20 bill slipped into your hand while no one is looking, an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner? 

But when the answer was not forthcoming in easily digestible terms, the mood of the crowd darkened. We know how to write and we have opinions about everything. If two plus two doesn't equal four then what does it add up to?

Getting a letter published even once in the New York Times is incredibly hard. And for those of us who have had the good fortune to be selected for that honor, we should be astonished and grateful. And call it a day at that. But for the select few who have been repeat offenders in the letters section, there is clearly the fever of fame that envelopes many of us. And it leaves us dissatisfied when we don't get more. We are better than mere writers of 150 words, more or less. We are the articulated sounds of America and we deserve, we are entitled to 850 or 900 words. Because, well just because.

I am among those who has tried and repeatedly failed to impress these judges. I, like the others, feel like nobody turned their chairs around on The Voice. But listen to me sing that high note.

But I have an expertise. I am most well versed in Yankee baseball and if you would only open up your closed mind you will comprehend that the history of the favorite games I have attended over six decades would make fascinating reading.

 But I know Donald Trump better than he knows himself. I eat, drink and sleep (albeit, fitfully) the man. I can write 1000 words on his small hands for God's sake. Give me a few op-eds on him, and I will rid the country of this vermin once and for all.

But I am a lawyer. Okay, I mainly do house closings, but still I am as qualified to muse on Constitutional questions as Mr. Trump is on the pros and cons of the deal with Iran.

But my mom recently died and I can write a compelling piece on the issue of dementia and outliving one's life.

But I am soon to be a first time grandfather. But I have a love hate relationship with golf. But I have been published many times in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Purple Clover (you don't have to go to these sites to read my work, trust me).

The list of topics is endless. And useless. I have as much chance of seeing my name on the Op-ed page as do you (unless, of course, you actually do have a chance). I may know how to put 150 words together, or even 850, but that in no way qualifies me to jump from one side of the page to the other.

One must possess both the ability to express an opinion coherently and a depth and breadth of knowledge on a matter of interest and concern. One without the other is merely the sound of one hand clapping.

My take on my mother's decade long descent from her illness might make for an interesting tale but a piece by a doctor who had spent decades studying the brains of those impacted by this disease would certainly capture the attention of the editorial staff. Or Mike Pence weighing in on what a Trump presidency is getting right rather than what I continually suggest it is getting wrong. Or Doug Glanville looking at baseball from the inside, rather than me peering in through the window.

And this was the gentle message that our speaker tried to convey. But we wanted none of that. We were here to be recognized, not to be anonymous in his eyes. We were here to be feted, not continually rejected. We were here because we deserved it.

And that meant getting the secret code. Or at least his direct email address. I left without either.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

GREAT PIECE!!!!!

GK

Anonymous said...

Finally getting a few minutes to read this. Brilliant!

SM

D B said...

Kind of sums it up doesn’t it? No matter how good we think we are or how good our friends think we are it’s the outsiders who have the final say.

Anonymous said...

You do deserve one!

PB

Anonymous said...

Your talent deserves getting the secret code. It is a conspiracy that rivals Area 51--RE