Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"An, At Least, Partial Misapprehension"

(Unnecessary Confession:  I am writing this post that is difficult to write as a delaying tactic, preventing me from writing a post that is even more to write.  You may consider that stalling.  I choose to call it “working my way up.”  Thank you.)

An Enjoyable Moment:

I have scheduled a massage at the Evolve Spa in New Buffalo Michigan.  I have never been there before, so as an identifying landmark, I am told by the receptionist that there will be a big, black “350” parked directly in front of the building.  I have no idea what that is, and, unwilling to betray my ignorance, I do not inquire.  The word “parked” suggests some sort of vehicle, and I am conversant with the word “black.”  I am hoping those clues will prove sufficient.

I arrive at the spa, reassuring myself that I am in the right place by making my way over to a largish, black truck parked out front, bearing the vanity license plate,

“Rusty Retard.”

My extended examination brings out the receptionist who, noticing me hyper-scrutinizing her truck, wondered if I had come there to steal it.  I was a little flattered.  I am rarely confused with a carjacker. 

Let alone a truckjacker.  I probably would not even know how to start it.  Though that did not stop me for imagining the “A.P.B.”

“Calling All Cars (if they still say that):  Be on the lookout for an elderly Jewish man with an usual left eye, driving erratically, as if he has no idea how to change gears.”

Assuring the receptionist that I was no threat whatsoever to her truck, I was escorted into the premises to partake of my massage. 

The massage therapist was (a female) named Alex who originally hailed from Tyler Texas, though she betrayed no such identifying accent.  Alex was a very good massage therapist, and if possible, an even better conversationalist, which was good, because it advantageously distracted me from thoughts… well, let’s just say it distracted me, and we’ll leave it at that.

In the course of my massage, either voluntarily or in response to a question, though I would not put it past me to brag, I let slip a biographical tidbit almost certain to impress.  Call it an illness, if you will, but I needed Alex to know that she was not applying her efforts to just any decrepitizing bag of bones.  I was a special decrepitizing bag of bones.

At some point, the conversation naturally – or unnaturally – turned to the fact that I had been brought down to Hollywood for my first network television-writing job by (now mega-mogul) Lorne Michaels.  Whom I was sure Alex had heard of, and it turned out she had.

To my disappointment and chagrin, however, Alex’s response to this revelation, as familiar as it was unwelcome, was,

“Yeah, it’s who you know.”


The temperature rapidly cooled in the massage cubicle, and subsequent efforts to re-elevate it were, at best, half-hearted.  Sad to report, the uniting vibe between us had irretrievably been altered.

I hate hearing, “It’s who you know” as a justification for somebody’s success.  (Especially mine.)  It’s not that this rationalization is egregiously inaccurate.  It’s just proverbial light-years from the entire story.

How do I start this?  (This, if you are scoring at home, would be the “difficult to write” part I originally mentioned.)  You don’t want to sound defensive, because you will come off sounding defensive. 

“I did not make it on my own, so I will downplay the importance of ‘It’s who you know.’”

Sort of thing.

And I do not want to go near the observation that the only people I have ever heard say, “It’s who you know” were people who did not achieve the goals they sincerely believe they would have achieved had they only had the assistance of some “It’s who you know” career-maker.  Because that’s just nasty.  (Though nonetheless accurate.)

I would never dispute that my career start was undeniably assisted by “It’s who you know.”  At the time, however – it needs be added for accuracy’s sake – Lorne Michaels was a struggling television producer, as eager to obtain my (in Lorne’s opinion, at least) valuable writing contribution as I was to obtain his support.  The Lorne Michaels of 1974 was not close to possessing the “It’s who you know” position that he currently holds today.  (And indeterminately into the future.)

Again, the accusation might arise – somewhat defensive.

The truth is, “It’s who you know” is indisputably helpful.  But it is neither essential nor is it determinative.  You can get there without knowing anyone.  And if you “know” someone but you haven’t got the “goods”, you should refrain from signing extended leases for anything because you will not be staying there for long.

I know a writer who knows everybody.  That familiarity has not substantially enhanced his resume.  On the other hand, the massively talented and successful Charles Brothers (Cheers and Frasier) emerged from the hinterlands of Henderson Nevada.  Knowing no one, they got their “big break” consequent to a “spec” script they‘d submitted “cold” to the Story Editor of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

So there’s that. 

To factor into the equation.

The massage was still highly enjoyable, and Alex’s tip was in no way affected.  But a little cloud had unhappily floated over the proceedings.  A little cloud called

“It’s who you know.”

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