The Junket (Kindle Single) Kindle Edition
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This particular junket's destination wasn't revealed until they reached their destination. Albo writes, "I wasn't so psyched to go to Jamaica, where gay people are maimed and killed and the prime minister made a special point to declare that LGTB rights would never be recognized, but on the plane the organizers got us all psyched. 'Can you believe it? I can't hear you! Jamiaca! Woooo!'"
He weaves in the story of the junket with his various jobs in Manhattan media, from working at "the Death Star for magazines but gayer" and learning not only how to cover high fashion, but how to covet it. Ultimately, this is a story that would make perfect reading for anyone considering writing as a profession, because Albo shows that even at the highest levels, at the pinnacle--and his description of not only what he did at The New York Paper but how it felt, as well as his continuing reverence, though not unreserved, for it, is one of the high points of this piece--it is still a struggle to survive.
Albo juxtaposes all the swag his colleagues received at various other magazines as well as his efforts to make the right decision about the junket with the outcome, in which The Paper first absolved him of wrongdoing, then changed its mind once it came under more minute scrutiny. But whether or not you agree with their decision, this piece has plenty of other merits, because Albo is not using it to settle a score or argue that he was in the right. In fact, he never points fingers, or this would read much differently and more as a way to settle a score than to explore why it is that he writes.
He concludes with a question about New York City that I think almost anyone who's lived here has been forced to ask themselves: is it worth it? "I have forgone something lasting to continue my long-term relationship with the most exciting but unreliable boyfriend of all--New York City. Maybe it's time to break up with it, to emancipate myself from the teasing, taunting, sexy metropolis that has kept me within its grip my entire adult life. But how do I break up with a city? How long am I supposed to believe I can 'make it' here? Or does none of it matter because it's all about advertising?" Once again, my biggest takeaway was how much Albo wants to write, and will go to whatever lengths he can to do it, not for the money per se, but for the expression. What you think that expression is worth is what's explored here, but I can safely say this essay is worth the $1.99.
And when you're done with it, I highly recommend my favorite piece of his: a tribute to a Katell Keinig concert that will wipe the idea of swag or writing about cravats right out of your mind, because it's so beautiful (in Sean Manning's anthology The Show I'll Never Forget).
Being gay is completely irrelevant. Getting old is a more serious complication.
Not recommended, three stars.
It's new media versus old and Albo (real or fictional) gets the heave-ho. And maybe rather than being a work of fiction, the whole thing happened just as it's presented. Or maybe the truth is somewhere in between.
In his account, Albo isn't whining or defending his breach of the "New York Newspaper's" ethics code. His story is in a way wistful, "Basically I became the Silkwood of Swag."
Reading his story is bemusing in the way Woody Allen used to bemuse "New Yorker" readers with his early stories. Albo also is bemusing in a way that is made more enjoyable by being less strident and somehow less biting than David Sedaris.
Besides being humorous and often down-right hilarious, Albo's plight is also revealing and heartfelt for being so self-effacingly honest. His personal ethos may be wanting but his pathos is genuine and genuinely appealing. He knows how to pull the reader in.
"Usually my bank account hovers around $227. I have no savings, no health insurance, no real job, no big commitments, and yesterday I found mouse droppings next to my laptop. I keep waiting for the money - the matching grant - for the constant fundraiser that is my non-profit writer life."
You can't help but end up with a big heap of empathy for this guy who convinces us he is just trying to eke out a living by doing what he always wanted to do, which is to live in New York City and to write, and after twenty years of trying is not too sure he's ever going to succeed or even make much headway. "Instead of a stable life I am surviving off a trickling IV drip of my aspirations."
Albo wonders if it's time to think about breaking up with his exciting but unreliable boyfriend, which is the way he characterizes New York City. But then he wonders, finally, if in fact it's New York that is trying to break off the relationship with him. "How long am I supposed to believe I can `make it' here?"
You're going get to the end of his story and hope that he manages to work things out in his relationship with the Big Apple and hang on at least for awhile longer. We could all use a few more laughs from this guy.