Yup, that’s right, I have a subscription to the gossipy, Paparazzi-driven, ad-ridden Interview. My motives are pure, though. I bought it for my SO, a SoHo man from way back. Style and famous people are his milieu. Peter Frampton once gave him a Hamer guitar designed especially for Frampton. Later when Frampton was going through a divorce and needed the cash, he asked for it back. The SO, a Tele fanatic, didn’t mind. He said it was just a Hamer anyway.
Besides the fact that the SO is into that sort of stuff, though, there’s another reason why I subscribed to Interview: the salesman was irresistible.
I was standing on my porch taking delivery on a load of gravel for an upcoming patio project, when a young man came walking up the drive. This was a particularly heroic act on his part because my driveway is a half mile long. Not even Jehovah’s Witnesses walk up my lane.
When I saw the young man’s eyeballs going in two different directions, I knew I was in trouble. My first instinct was to run into the house, shut off the lights, and gag the cats, but I had that gravel to tend to. Dump trucks entertain a cavalier attitude when entering my yard. They see all the junk, broken power tools, moldy siding, and ripped up blue tarps and think they can off-load anywhere. But everything has a place and is in its place in my yard. Just because the car is on blocks doesn’t mean you can dump a ton of stones in front of it.
The young man walked humbly up to me with a shy, unassuming smile and a warm handshake. Unfortunately he ruined the moment by opening with the very thing I hate–a compliment. Whether it’s a hairdresser insisting I must be a model or a talk show host telling me I’m a great writer, I hate a relationship that starts with a compliment. Actually I like talk show hosts telling me I’m a great writer. (see Jordan Rich quote)
This particular young man said my ranch was the most beautiful he’d ever seen. Second mistake. I do not live on a ranch. I live in Pennsylvania. We don’t have ranches. We have farms. Ranches are in Texas where it takes a thousand acres to feed 8 cattle and it’s flat as a pancake. PA has hills and dales and you can feed three horses on a single acre for nine months of the year. (Not really, but we try it anyway and if the horses get a little thin, well they can just wait till the price of hay drops to $3/bale.)
So the guy not only opened with a compliment, he got the nomenclature wrong. But I liked him right off the bat anyway. He had a genuine smile and never blinked when he talked. The German Shepherd did not attack him like he usually does when a stranger comes within 50 yards of me.
Someone so obviously honest, openly happy and carefree could only be an ex-convict. My spirits lifted. I have a soft spot for ex-cons on account of my ex-husband being one. Sure they lack social grace and carry a grudge, but most them got to prison selling pot or crack cocaine. My policy on drugs is this: as long TV is legal, drugs should be too. TV is just as addicting. Don’t give me any crap about debilitation either. Heroin does not do permanent damage and if you think TV doesn’t either, take a look at the latest stats on obesity in the U.S. We are no longer a nation of couch potatoes, people, we are now a nation of couch watermelons.
So this ex-convict comes humbly up the drive, looks the dog and me right in the eye, and asks after our ranch. How could I not like him? This poor guy had been out canvassing my neighborhood, hawking something. The farmers around here are either Dutch or Pennsylvania Dutch which means we’re a group of very, very thrifty people. In other words he hadn’t sold much of whatever it was he was selling. My heart sank when I learned it was magazine scrips.
After the last time I got heart-roped into buying two years of US News & World Report, I said I never would again. Not that US News is bad or anything, it’s just that it comes out once a week. I’m so far behind in my reading I’m only just now getting out from under the 2004 issues.
And the way you get roped into buying these things is annoying. They blatantaly, unashamedly guilt you into it. You know the type of thing I’m talking about. You get a letter in the mail from a nephew you never met. It says: “Dear Aunt ____, I love you. Please buy a subscription. Your donation will help my school at __________ buy a computer.”
The subtext of course is: “If you don’t want your ghetto child relation to grow up like his dad and wind up in jail on crack cocaine charges, please send in as much dough as you can spare so we can make sure no kid gets left behind.”
I hate the extortion. On top of that, the list of magazines is always Hearst/Conde Nast fare. You might as well just give directly to the Republican Party.
So in spite of the fact that this ex-con’s eyes go in two directions and I’d rather die than help fund a third term for W, I squint my eyes, turn my head sideways, and search quickly to find something, anything that might have fallen between the cracks of Rod & Gun, Bride’s, Cosmo, and Architectural Digest. My knee jerk, of course, is to dress him down with some progressive rhetoric about the corporate publishing world, but this young man is an innocent. He’s had to walk over from the next township where he got dropped off by his handler, a guy who’s convinced he’s a loser. As part of his half-way program he’s got to peddle dreck to a group of thrifty farmers. The dog actually likes him; he’s been licking his hand through the whole sales pitch. I can see he must have suffered a bum rap. He quoted the Bible to me a couple of times when he was complimenting my ranch. Without irony.
I had no choice. I ordered up Organic Gardening. At least it’s a Rodale pub. And then I went for Interview for the SO. (Did I mention the jacket he got from Mick Fleetwood?)
To be honest the whole ordeal was making me light-hearted. The young man’s optimism in the face of disheartening circumstances was catching. He of course was ecstatic. Nobody had ever bought two scrips before. No surprise there. Did I mention the thriftiness of the neighbors?
As he was writing up my bill, we chatted. It was a nice day and here I was, light-heartened for no good reason. I teased him and told him he was a pretty good salesman. I suggested a career in politics.
“You don’t want me in the White House,” he said. “I’d pick up that red phone in a minute and bomb the hell out of all them EYERACKIES.”
So much for the moment. What could I say? “That’s not very Buddhist of you?” Maybe this was the time to break out the speech about the hypocrisy of claiming Christ while at the same time desiring a horrible death for all strangers.
I bit my tongue and shook my head. I’d seen American History X. My ex was an ex; he told me what goes on in there. There was no way to reach this person. No point. His head was full of words for The Cause he’d heard somewhere from somebody firing up inmates. This young man who hated and feared strangers had no understanding of the impossibility of selling junk door to door at a time when everyone hates and fears strangers. Especially in a neighborhood of thrifty neighbors.
Today as I read interviews with Gwen Ifill on the subject of black U.S. presidents, Roman Polanski on the subject of bum raps, and Mickey Rourke on the subject of bad career moves, I think of the young man and how much I should probably hate and fear him. I don’t. It is physically impossible to be high-minded while perusing Interview Magazine.