The best thing about being a journalist is you get to learn little bits and pieces about a million different things within a given time period — I call it becoming a dinner-table expert on a topic.
You glean just enough information to be engaging and/or interesting for as long as it takes to finish a glass of red wine, but not so much that you take away from the tasteful melange that is the tomato basil mozzarella salad, on a good night. The apple crisp in the Lean Cuisine on a less tantilizing evening.
For instance, I have become a recent dinner-time expert on Pill Cams, the use of theater as an organizational intervention in corporate settings (www.dramaworks.com), the gas crisis and its effects on short-range travel, the disappearance of privately-owned photo labs (a travesty), and vintage auto restoration.
You also meet and greet with a lot of folks, most are ok. These are what Chuck Palahniuk referred to as ‘single- serving friends’ in his book Fight Club, and I couldn’t describe them any better. One such SSF was the owner of an auto restoration business and dealership who showed me a Rolls Royce he was restoring for his brother, only to reveal later that his brother is one of my favorite authors, Augusten Burroughs (www.augusten.com).
As I was running my hand down the wood paneling of Augusten Burroughs’ Rolls (I mean, seriously, people. That is pretty cool.) — I asked his big bro if maybe the author would contribute to my story, and the next day I had an email waiting for me from Burroughs, writing directly from Sydney, Australia.
Not only did he help, he wrote up an essay detailing his auto restoration escapades. Totally above and beyond the call of duty and pretty stand-up, I thought, for a guy whose best-seller Running With Scissors will soon hit the big screen.
That email is safely enshrined in my ‘SAVE’ file on Outlook as proof that in some small way, my career bumped uglies with that of Augusten Burroughs, and created the ultimate JCF.