Today’s word — “babe” — from the Coast-to-Coast provocateur @Pergamond
In the moment just before Mosaic begat Netscape and the birth of the internet as we know it, I assumed my first executive role, an over-eager 25-year old flush with responsibility and a private office — “office” being a former supply closet I cleaned out the weekend prior to my official start date —poised to prove my mettle.
Initial order of business: figure out what the heck a “Circulation Manager” for a computing magazine did beyond the basics outlined by my entrepreneurial publisher, who “saw potential” in me. I took the Circ Manager for the magazine on the floor upstairs — Wired — to lunch, my treat, launched a charm assault, angling for insider tips. He became my go-to guy, a cultivated mentor. I barely noticed he was a total hottie.
You can see him for yourself, if you locate a copy of Might magazine inaugural issue. He’s one of the naked people.
My business mandate specific — grow circulation, generate revenue — my latitude extensive. “There are no sins of commission, only sins of omission,” our publisher proclaimed, encouraging us, his all-female executive team, to be faster, smarter, braver. Bold.
Silicon Valley was burbling, our magazine translated technospeak for “regular folks”, the kind who could afford a $5k+ Macintosh computer for their personal use. I went from evangelist meetings at Apple to magazine distribution warehouses. Either side, Old World (legacy publishing) or New World (emerging tech), an ocean of men, speaking a specific code. Same World Order.
My newsstand consultant, Mr. Gandino, and I attended a wholesale distribution conference for a fevered round of meetings, my consultant my chaperone, introducing me to prospective suitors cum business partners. Everyone knew each other, wholesale distributors — each with a regional retail monopoly — were typically family-run enterprises, handed down through the generations like wealth or furniture.
In one of these across-a-laminated table “speed date” meetings with a group of southerners responsive to my slight accent trotted out for the occasion, the dapper older gentleman — the patriarch who both son and nephew were angling to oust — turned to my consultant, exclaimed how charming I was in comparison to the last guy, the two of them chuckling over historical jokes, an agreement achieved between jovial exchanges, discount percentages, retail shelf placement, guarantees.
At the end of our brief meeting, the elder statesman stood and said, “Don’t worry lil’ darlin’, we’ll take care of you” and patted me. On the head.
I was twenty-six years old.
There was no Silicon Valley success to emulate, the press was years away from promoting polarizing portraits — Meg Whitman, Kim Polese — as role model options. I could strike a blow for an amorphous, larger cause. Or I could nail an immediate business win.
I looked up at my benefactor, smiled, and said, “Why thank you so very much sir,” success and resentment twining tastes in my mouth, bitter battling sweet.
Hand-scribbled at Lelabar Wine Bar, west village, nyc
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