"You have no idea what Labor Day is about, do you?" Okay, he was right, but I could still spin this. It was time to get all philosophical up in this bitch. "Can you really know a holiday, Jackson 5? I mean, when you think about it, can anyone really know anything, for sure?" That shit was smooth and deep. I'm like Socrates wrapped in Shaft, sometimes, I swear to God. I sat down on the edge of Jack's desk. "You see, Labor, is actually the Japanese word for 'Christmas,' so Labor Day for us is like Christmas for the Japanese, where they gather around their Christmas Trees which, of course, they call maize, and they sing carols but not about Christmas, and not with their mouths. Instead, they-" "I'm going to stop you right there, I think you're actually making this room more retarded with every second that you keep talking." Can that actually happen? "Dan, I'm sending you on an assignment." "An assignment? Sweet Screaming Tits, finally! I'll get some more pornography." He stopped me. "It's not that kind of assignment, Dan. No assignment I give you will ever be that kind of assignment. I want you to go out and figure out what Labor Day is all about. Do some real reporting, write up a story, the whole deal." "I get it." I squinted and shook my head like a total badass. "You're afraid to get your hands dirty, so you're sending me out to the streets to dig up some answers." "Uh huh. Whatever. Anything that gets you out of the office for a while." "I won't let you down," I said, knowing full well that I would, in fact, let him way the hell down. As I left his office, I lit a few more firecrackers and casually tossed them behind my back. ***
I had my assistant set up an appointment with Fiona McDowel, the current head of the Federal United Labor Union and got a series of tough, hard-hitting questions together.
Journalism is a tricky business. You need to be sure that the person you're interviewing feels comfortable around you, comfortable enough to give straight, honest answers. If you ask too many questions or if you give them a look that can be described as particularly "rapey," they can –and they would be right to-- end the interview. If even for one second they feel even the slightest bit ill at ease, it is their right to refuse to answer questions, and the last thing you need is an interview without a subject. An interview without a subject is poison to the journalism game. It's what we in the business call "Shit in the Coffee," because both of those things are unfavorable. (Picture a nice cup of coffee. Now picture it with poop in it. Can you see why that would be a problem? Good, you're on your way to being a first-class journalist.) Now, while it is your job as a journalist to make sure your subject is completely comfortable at all times, you don't want to do so at the risk of losing the story. It would be easy to lob softball questions at a subject all day; that would be totally comfortable, especially if you're interviewing the star batter of the softball team. Comfortable though that may be, a story without some degree of controversy will feel flat, so eventually, you'll need to ask some seriously hard-hitting questions. It is the unenviable job of the journalist to walk this delicate tightrope, trying to keep a subject at ease enough to complete the interview, but enraged enough to give out some juicy, perhaps dirty, secrets. This precarious tightrope-balancing metaphor is made even more precarious if you're hoping to bone whomever you happen to be interviewing.
This might be a problem. "Miss McDowel," I said when she sat down, "thank you for agreeing to meet with me." "It's Mrs. McDowel," she corrected. "It's Miss, actually," I re-corrected, with a wink. She gave me a look that either said "I'm confused and offended" or "I'm just seconds away from ripping my pants off." [It should be noted that this is the look that, in my mind, every woman everywhere constantly wears on her face at all times.] "Anyway," I began, stretching, (but, really, flexing), my arms behind my back, "we should really get started. See if we can't clear up this whole 'Labor Day' business once and for all." "There's really no mystery," she said, mysteriously. "In the late 1800s, some labor unions got together and decided that the hardworking, blue collar types deserved a day off and a parade. So, a day in September was established as a day of rest and celebration for these laborers and... I'm sorry, are you sure you don't want to write any of this down?"
"Don't you worry your pretty little ass, Miss McDowel. I've got it all up here." At 'here' I pointed to my head, so to suggest that I was mentally writing down the words that she was saying. This was, of course, ludicrous, as all of my mental ability was focused on not pointing towards my crotch while we talked. There was an intense battle going on in my head between good and evil over this very subject. Nothing punctuates a sentence like a good ole' crotch point. Indicating your genitals is Nature's period, Evil would say. When has a crotch point ever not resulted in a fairly aggressive lawsuit, Good would wisely point out. Seriously. This is what it's like in my head. All the time. "Alright, Mr. O'Brien, if you're sure that you have all of this, I'll keep going." I nodded, so as to say I'm sure, and I refrained from repeatedly jabbing my fingers towards my groin, so as to say I'm not going to court over this again. It was interesting to watch Fiona speak, and I politely informed her as such.
She was very animated when she spoke, and it was clear from the hint of a smile and the twinkle in her eye that she was very passionate about the topic of labor laws and unions. I almost felt sorry for the poor girl, because those were some of the most boring fucking things I've ever heard about. Still, it was wonderful to watch her speak, flailing her arms around, pausing only to sip at her coffee. It was so wonderful, in fact, that I didn't even pay attention to a word she'd actually said. So wonderful, in fact, that I found myself staring still, even after she'd already left.
So, my sexy, expert subject had left and I'd completely ignored every sexy little word that came out of that filthy mouth of hers. In the world of journalism, when presented with a situation like this, it is said that you've been handed "A Strawberry Cock Sundae with Shit Sauce." In terms everyone can understand, I was totally screwed. Or was I? The clock was ticking, nearing towards deadline. I had no story, no subject, and absolutely no interest in doing any further research. But what I did have was a wild imagination and an uncanny ability to create a touching and heartwarming piece of journalism so fucking moving you just might cry, if you weren't too busy rubbing your genitals on the paper in a futile attempt to have sex with the story.
I started writing. Furiously, not bothering to correct typos or wipe the page when I started drooling on it. I thought about what labor meant to me. How, before my career as a wild and passionate blogger, I had a slightly less glamorous job working as a dishwasher. I thought about how, on busy nights, an impossible number of plates would stack up and up and even the slightest deviation --like taking one sip of water-- would set me back immensely. At first, it seemed like no matter how many I washed, I'd never get through them all. But I took them. One dish at a time. I thought about how the quiet tranquility brought on by both the repetitive, circular hand-washing motion and the monotonous whir of the giant, mechanical dishwasher drowned out the rest of the world and made the work almost soothing, almost peaceful. I thought about the pride I took when that last batch of dishes made its way through the machine, off the racks and onto the shelves. When I could turn to Hector, the Kitchen Chief, and wipe my hands and say "No más," ["No more."] All I had to look upon was that sparkling kitchen. Completely silent. completely clean. I thought about my wrinkled, calloused, hands, nearly destroyed by dish-rot, and the amount of t-shirts I had to throw away once they'd been completely ruined by sweat. I thought about the feeling I'd get in my stomach when I could relax. When I'd finally gotten a day off and I could say, without hesitation, without sarcasm, and without doubt, "I earned this." I thought about all of this as I scribbled away like a madman; the rapid, swirling motion my hand was making on the loose-leaf paper reminded me of the similar motion required to properly pre-wash a dish before loading it onto the machine. I considered what I remembered of what Miss McDowel said--about the men and women who fought to take just one day out of 365 to recognize the workers in this country-- and tried desperately to tie it in to my personal anecdote of humbling and rewarding manual labor. When I'd gotten it all out --when I'd practically cut open my veins and let my blood pour out through my pen-- I held it briefly in my hands, sweat dripping off my forehead onto the page. After some time, quietly, I said "No más."
*** I placed my report on Jack's desk first thing in the morning. "I won't lie to you, Jacktory Girl: What you have in your hands is the greatest piece of journalistic sex I will ever write." I watched him read it, devouring each line with his eyes while his hands shook. He was speechless. He would be for a while. "Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend, Jack."
I know I will. I know I will.
More of Daniel's writing can be found on the Internet.