Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The World Can Wait

It's been a good long while since I've posted something even resembling an old fashioned journal entry based on how "things" have been going. What used to be a mainstay of this blog -- bitching and moaning about my work situation -- has seemingly been relegated to secondary status. Funny how things can change.

Like most bloggers, I usually write better when I have something to be pissed off about. Lately, however, things have been going pretty well in the freelance biz. Still not quite enough weekly hours to suit my taste, but at least the workload has been fairly steady. The last coupla weeks, though, have been interesting if not noteworthy.

A few Fridays ago I was bemoaning the lack of hours I was getting at LT, my usual freelance "headquarters" if you will, when I got a call from the agency that I am booked through. It was C wondering if I was interested in some weekend work, off premises. Of course, of course, I verbally indicated, and it was on. It was a small project involving a 13-page insert for an in-flight magazine put out by AE. It was great to get another client into the fold, especially at 30 bucks an hour, even if it turned out to be only 3 hours' worth of work; that's how it got started with all six or seven of my present clients: a one- or two-day project, and if you can manage to do the job well enough and stand out a little, they're usually gonna want you back. At least that's been my experience.

Then a few weeks ago I got a call from a good friend who wants me to help him out with his Website, managing the managers, so to speak. A few days later we had a meeting with his Webmaster dude down at a small office on Varick, where I was also able to network a little bit and may have gotten my foot in the door for some future proofreading work not only at his agency, but for someone else he knows. After I finish editing some work related to the site, we'll go back downtown and I can follow up on things.

Ironically, or at least coincidentally, this past week marked the two-year anniversary of The Big Layoff, as it's come to be known in publishing industry circles. As my regular readers already know, that was the occasion of my being downsized out of a job as Managing Editor of Production/Copy Editor at an institution I had toiled at for just shy of 17 years. Then one Monday coming back from a lunch break at the South Street Seaport, I was informed that my services were no longer required, and my presence at said office was in fact no longer permissible, effective immediately. (Hey, I am starting to get pissed off again! This is gonna be good therapy for me!)

I'm not gonna the same old ground or cover all the low points of getting fired, trying to make sense of it all, the trials and tribulations and false starts as I wended my way back into the employment sector. All that is available in the WardensWorld archives, often in excruciatingly painful detail. Someday I hope that period of my life will be turned into a cinematic masterpiece starring somebody like Robert Downey Jr. or Matthew Broderick in the title role, hopefully capably helmed by a director in the mold of a Marty Scorcese or a Jimmy Jarmusch.
Instead, I remain incredibly optimistic, which is not always easy given the vicissitudes of the modern freelancer's lot in life. The key is that I steeled myself very early on to the likelihood of my having to do this for three or four years -- supplemented by some catering work, some odd jobs -- before landing a plum or even peachy publishing gig that would not only take full advantage of my various and myriad skill sets, but would in turn reward me with a wide range of benefits and handsome salary package, as well as a spacious cubicle or cozy corner office overlooking some idyllic cityscape. That's if this very Weblog doesn't take off like a proverbial rocket and become a cash cow, allowing me to work at home in my underwear. Hey, a slacker can dream, can't he?

But characteristically, I digress. Almost all of the 6 or 7 clients that I have built up over the last almost year and a half have used me or at least inquired about my services at some point over the last month. Some days I'm already booked somewhere else, such as one day a few months ago when I was already at LT and both WO and S, two downtown ad agencies, called within an hour on the same day requesting my services; and then there are days where I am off from LT and no one calls. Usually they know to call at least a day or two ahead of time. That was the case last Friday, when I was booked at LT for an early afternoon shift, but then S needed me to work on the Sw. Catalog, which is a little like the Pensky File that George Costanza worked on in that great Seinfeld episode, except I actually get some work done.

So Friday I got down to Varick Street at 9, worked for S until 1:00, then shot uptown and got to LT for an afternoon shift. That's how I always imagined freelancing to be. And it would get better. While I was at LT I got a call from K. at A. telling me another client was requesting my earthly presence -- none other than the good folks at V Magazine. I had worked for them last fall for a short-term project, and they had called for my services a few times since then, but it was again a case of already being booked on the days they needed me, but I took it as a good sign that at least they were still asking for me.

Now in many ways, freelancing for a new client is almost like starting a new job all over again, only instead of having weeks or months to ease into a position, you're expected to master all the relevant details and get cracking immediately. For this project, V really needed someone for the full week, but as K. put it, they could use me for two full days because they liked my work the last time I was there, which involved proofreading one of their Websites and checking that all the links were functioning properly. Now it all hinged on coordinating my schedule with my LT peeps. LT has been a life saver for me; I've been here for over a year now, since June of '06, and it's almost like I'm a fixture at the office here. (Yes, it's a slow day here -- allowing me to blog away to my heart's content and, ideally, your ultimate reading entertainment. You can thank me later and, yes, we do take gratuities. )

Bottom line, long story short, cutting to the chase, doing away with formalities, I worked Monday and Tuesday of this week for V, and then back at LT today (Wednesday) for a short 11-4pm shift. The V assignment was on premises, but instead of the office I worked at last time, this time I was to report to the office at 1166 Sixth Avenue. Now, 4 Times Square is where the actual magazine headquarters is located, which, as you may imagine, is quite nicely stocked with members of the fairer female sex in full possession of qualities placing them well above the societal norm in terms of physical attraction, charm, hygiene and winsomeness that are quite rightly prized by the more shallow members of my own chromosomal makeup.

Instead, this office seemed to be inhabited by techie types who toil selflessly behind the editorial operations of the magazine itself. My assignment involved as I said looking for broken links, typos, spelling errors, inconsistencies, then charting it all on an Excel spreadsheet. After every 50 entries in the spreadsheet I sent it along to the proper authorities so that the problems can be rectified, and we all know how painful that can be.

Now, such painstaking proofreading is not for everyone: it takes concentration, focus, diligence, you name it. But the good folks I dealt with over the last few days were so darned appreciative of my effort that it bordered on incredulity. I did catch a ton of stuff, and by the end of the day I was up to 250 errors or at least notations on the old Excel chart. It was just after 5 yesterday when I was winding down, getting ready to thank everyone for the opportunity, blah blah blah, when my cell rang. It was K. again, calling to tell me that the folks liked my work so much they were hoping I could continue and finish off the project, even if it meant working at home. But since I had a shift today at LT, which is only a few minutes from their office, I suggested returning tonight to finish it off, and they agreed. So after I knock off here at around 4, I will shoot over to 1166 and be on the clock by 4:30 till whenever the job is done. I think it's about 5 more hours of work.

It's funny: Proofreading or copy-editing for spelling, grammar, content, context, consistency, etc., is one of those things that most people have no clue about. To the young people I come across especially, what I do is akin to the black art of a sorcerer, so shrouded in mystery and mystique is turning incomprehensible gibberish into something logical and readable (I actually think of myself as The Fixer, but that's for another post). How else to explain the gratitude I receive upon completion of what comes so naturally to me, although of course I can boast of having over 20 years in the rough & tumble world of high-stakes publishing and other media.

For instance, toward the end of the day yesterday, before I knew I was coming back to finish off the project today, I got an email from one of my supervisors there telling me how much she appreciated me. Even I was startled, and believe me no one ever accused me of having a small ego or being modest when it comes to my work. The message read "Thanks for being so great, Barry!" The day before it was "Thanks for all your meticulous work!" And you know what, she's right: I am meticulous! It was all I could do to refrain from responding with a reply email telling her, in the immortal words of Sally Field: "You like me! You really like me!" But I think I'll save that sappy sentiment for when I'm offered a full-time position at CN!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have an important Yankees game to monitor on the Internets...

See also:
Please Be Seated
Out to Lunch
Live Off Me
Worked Over
No Account
Take This Job


Magnus Maximus said...

Wow, good story. I may be in need of a Sally Field Moment myself. I don't deal well with praise, however; it makes me uncomfortable.

I like what you say about grammar and spelling; these skills elude many. Each day I thank the Ancient Ones that my sister got me interested in reading at a young age.

I wish you luck in your efforts to build a client base!

Wardens World said...

Thanks Max, I appreciate the sentiment. We all have our role to play in the cog of history! In the words of Shelly the Machine Levene, I have never been afraid of familiarity. Or something like that...

Magnus Maximus said...

"You're eating her crumb cake."


"How was it?"

"From the store."

"Fuck her."

Wardens World said...

just watched the entire flick last weekend, shows how exciting my social life is these days. Some of the most quotable lines in the history of the cinema:

"I can only speak to a Mrs. Nyborg."

"all train compartments smell vaguely of shit."

"They say you should not drink alcohol on such a hot day as it will dehydrate you. Something I read..."

Good stuff

Magnus Maximus said...

"What's your name?"

"Fuck you, that's my name. You know why pal? 'Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, I drove an eighty thousand dollar BMW, that's my name. And your name is you're wanting, and you can't play in the man's game, you can't close, then go home and tell your wife your troubles."

What a great movie. Has to be one of the strongest casts ever assembled. I saw a local theater troop perform the play and while I liked it, the film is so seared into my mind that it's difficult for me to accept anyone else portraying those characters. One of the greatest indictments of the Sales Culture ever written.

Magnus Maximus said...

ps--Ed Harris's "farewell to the troops" speech at the end always kills me. The way Pacino reacts after he storms out never ceases to amuse...

Wardens World said...

"Sittin' on top of the world, everything is just peach fuzz. What are you, Bishop Sheen? Friend of the working man?"

Yeah, it's kind of the sequel to Death of a Salesman, especially the sad Jack Lemmon character. Brilliant cast, Pacino in top form. Not a false not in the entire flick. How about when Ed Harris and Alan Arkin are in the car with the whole Jerry Graff speech, I think I read that was all improvised. "It's medieval." "It's not fair to the customer."

Then when James Link comes back to the office, that whole thing where Lemmon pretends to be a client of Pacino's is a classic scene. "No, you're on the 1:00."

I could go on and on but you get the point: GGR easily makes my top 10 of all time list.

Magnus Maximus said...

Mine as well. I see you're a Lynch fan. I'm seriously considering buying the DVD set of Twin Peaks, seeing as how it's, you know, the greatest televison series of all time. I still can't believe something that good actually got on network teevee.

I picked up a vinyl LP of "Byrds Play Dylan"...I'm sure I don't have to tell you that it's effing awesome, baby!

Serge A. Storms said...

How do you get into this kind of work? I'm going for a degree in multimedia design, and I can't get my damn foot in the door.

Wardens World said...

With Lynch, I loved Elephant Man, only saw Eraserhead the one time in the movies, somehow convinced my girlfriend at the time to go see it with me, and surprisingly I don't remember her hating it, just being as weirded out about the whole thing as i was. Only watched Twin Peaks a few times, whenever i was over this girl's house who I was trying to hit on, who was a huge fan and never missed an episode. I would definitely check out the box set so that i could start at the beginning and try to make some sense of it. That show would never be given a chance in today's TV market.

Speaking of DVDs, recently saw a few new ones, or at least ones I hadn't seen before. Jarhead: much better than I thought. Good antiwar movie, even though very few battle scenes.
Why We Fight: Terrific indictment of the military industrial complex. Eisenhower then sounds like Dennis Kucinich now! That's how far the paradigm has moved to the right!
Munsters Season 1: Not as good as I thought. A little monotonous, except for the Pilot, which had like a whole different cast and was surreal as hell, I think because it was in color.
Odd Couple Season 1: Now this one I paid for, got it the first day it came out: What can you say, just a classic sitcom from the '70s. Season 1 was not the best season, however; they used a laff track thru most of it.
Frankentstein box set: Haven't checked out all the extras yet, just watched the classic first one, without commentary. Slow pacing by contemporary standards of course, but still a great monster carrying the movie. Expressionistic, atmospheric...

I got all of the above thru some DVD club which I still haven't paid a dime for. Sticking it to the man!

@Serge: I don't know much about multimedia design. I just stumbled into freelancing after someone told me about an agency. It depends if you want full time, part time or freelance work. I'm still looking for something fulltime w benefits, but for now I'm just glad to have somewhere to go almost every day. This is still all new to me, because I had the same job for yrs. and yrs and then got fired, went thru the whole unemployment for 6 months -- nice work if u can get it -- before doing a bunch of odd jobs, etc. But you should find as many publishing, media, graphic arts agencies in your area and let them use their contacts to find you work, so that you can use the downtime to blog and such and help topple the tyrant in OUR white house before it's too late. Good luck...

Serge A. Storms said...

Edward Abbey had a great quote:

“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”

If I could manage to do that AND be gainfully employed at the same time, that would be great.

Magnus Maximus said...

Oh yeah, definitely buy or rent at least the first season of Twin Peaks. You won't be disappointed. It's something you have to see chronologically to appreciate, but it's sheer genius. Even better if you don't know the solution to the mystery (even if you did at one time you've probably forgotten it by now eh?)