New York Orientation Part II: On Not Getting the Job


12/19/2003 Headquarters, Soho; also Greenpoint

Neighborhood: Brooklyn, Greenpoint


I was out on the front stoop today, where I have to smoke now that the super of my building has declared the fire escape off limits, on account of he found a few cigarette butts on the pavement underneath. There’s a whole funny story about this, actually, considering my roommate begins tearing his hair out at the slightest hint of cigarette smoke wafting into the room, which I take to be a sign, along with some door banging and a general mannered shortness, that I’m beginning to get on my roommate’s nerves, what with my having stayed on his couch for three months.

The superindendent of the building wears a ponytail and the slack, Giottofied Jesus-Christ expression you find only on the faces of the terminally dumb and bullying. You can find him find digging through the trash on any given day, making sure there are no recyclable bottles in there, since, according to him, any cop could happen to stroll by, poke his nightstick in among the banana peels and give our super a whopping ticket.

This super, who hated me from day one, who in some sense considers me the milk bottle poking out of his perfect pile of trash, has made it his personal mission to regulate my every move, which includes a rule about no smoking on the fire escape. So, imagine me, Peter Krause, (Managing Editor at scrunched in the windowframe as I have been for three months, trying to occupy some negative zone between outside and inside, between super and roommate, smoking furtively, lips expelling smoke as far into the night air as possible, a heavy, cold wind whipping in from off the ocean, knocking over the coffee can I use as an ashtray. Consider the consequences of this freak action, Muze. There I am, sore from scrunching up, panicking, trying to pick all those cigarette butts off the fire escape grating like a child furtively gluing his mom’s favorite vase back together, knowing that when the morning came, I’d see all the butts that fell through, like the bodies of little pets, laying on the inaccessible back porch below.

There I was today out on the front stoop, as per the new house rules, enjoying a cigarette, sort of contemplating why I didn’t get the job at Muze, when one of the older ladies who lives in my building came up with one of those two-wheeled grocery carts. It felt awfully good to help her carry that cart up the stairs, though when I attempted to introduce myself, she began speaking in Polish and got a little nervous and she started pointing at all the apartment numbers, saying, “One, three, I don’t know… I don’t know,” me saying, “No, no, my name is Greg, I just wanted to introduce myself…”

It was then that I came upstairs and decided to write this letter to you.

Muze, you provide content for online booksellers and informational retail kiosks. You needed an editor knowledgeable in Science Fiction and Mysteries, someone who had hands-on retail experience, an eye for detail, and a sharp, clear writing style. I was not that editor. But we had good times at that interview, didn’t we? I mouthed on and on about the “really terrific” 19th century SF I’d been reading, aced the test you gave me, the one where I cited Poppy Z. Brite as being an exemplar of the Splatterpunk genre. Remember when you said, “we sort of work in isolation here, and you’d pretty much be left alone to research books without a lot of interference?” Remember how my eyes lit up? There was something strange going on for me there, Muze. I was sort of thinking, I am unqualified to do anything but this job. But I was also thinking, this is why I moved to New York, to find just this sort of job. I walked out of that interview feeling happy and desperate, thinking, without a doubt I had nailed this job. That feeling was compounded when I heard you had started calling my references.

Now Muze, I don’t know what sort of super-intelligent beast you’ve put in my place, but let me assure you that the sum total of happiness in this world has been diminished because of the actions you have taken. Perhaps he or she is qualified enough for your position, even, qualified to walk on water or do financial writing or become the lead editor at a prestigious magazine, fielding mind-boggling queries as to the beneficial nature of nepotism or how online dating is revolutionizing romance in the 21st century, on top of knowing everything there is to know about Science Fiction and Mysteries. Muze, your beast, this place-taker, will leave you soon, send you scurrying for some new person. All will be unhappiness in your world, and in mine, too. Perhaps even the place taker will understand in time, hopping ever upward on his or her way to glory, what unhappiness is.

In the meantime, Muze, it’s interesting to begin to feel that hackneyed emotion that all recent New Yorkers express after a few months in town, namely, that they feel invisible, friendless, and much less worthwhile than when they walked in. A new wind could soundlessly sweep me off the planet. My mother in Kalamazoo, a handful of friends in Chicago, would make calls at first, inquiring about my newfound invisibility. Then, after a short while, the silence would be absolute. I know this especially, since my research in science fiction has taken me as close as Mars, as in the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian trilogy, and as far away as the outer edges of the cosmos, as in the case of Nebula- and Hugo-award winning author Pohl Anderson, where the life of the Earth, not to mention a single human being, can be measured in the proverbial blink of an eye.


Greg Purcell

** If you want to hire this man, or just interview him,

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