When I first came to Earth from the planet Myrxon, it was my mission to
observe the Earthlings' global defense warning systems, their military capabilities,
what kind of tentative cooperation might exist between the various Earthling
nations to repel the eventual attack we had planned in our sweep to conquer
all life forms in galaxies 17 to 23. To deflect any kind of suspicion upon
my arrival I took a job as a plasterman in a Yonkers dental lab called AAA
Dental and found a simple little Earthling woman to cohabitate with. In
a series of peculiar circumstances I even fell into a local garage band
called The Twenty % Tippers...
a most encouraging development, a major recording label began expressing
interest in The Twenty % Tippers. An A&R scout for the company arranged
to meet me for dinner at a very exclusive Manhattan restaurant. The name
of the scout was Lev Yossel, and I don't think I was at fault for not initially
putting two and two together. It wasn't until I arrived at the eatery and
looked across the room to see a long-bearded old fellow in black frock coat
and black beaver hat...
You might not have recognized us back then. Of course
we came from sickness like anyone else. Although not particularly religious,
we read Ecclesiastes every day just to keep ourselves in check. We worked
the jobs available to us, tucking our shirts in on Friday night, a string
of months disappearing into free-fall. It seemed a rather shapeless time
in social history and even our lives felt vaguely unformed, as if our purpose
had not yet been revealed. At the time there was no music in our lives,
not even what you would call incidental music, maybe just a snippet of "The
Happy Organ" by Dave "Baby" Cortez that segued into a sports call-in show.
If asked, we could not have identified the chord changes in a twelve-bar
blues. Suddenly we stopped reading Ecclesiastes. Then a chain of events
Christina said it was a bad idea, using The Twenty % Tippers' mailing list
to score a job, almost like begging. But the other Tippers didn't mind,
and you couldn't deny it was a killer list. Over 500 names of people who'd
called for a free cassette including VIPs like Gordon Lish, the flamboyant
senior editor at Alfred Knopf, Carolyn Warmus, the Westchester schoolteacher
who was doing time for shooting her lover's wife, Troy Canty, one of the
victims of subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz, and Cindy Adams, the gossip
columnist from the New York Post, who even Fed-Exed us shrimp dumplings
at Christmas. Absolutely killer...
The nasal voice on the telephone kept calling me shark
and hustler and player.
"Do we know each other?" I asked.
"I love what you do in the subways, shark. Very New
York. How do you afford sending out all those free cassettes?"
"Maybe I got a McArthur Genius Grant. Do we know
"Could be. Name is Dan Mangan. You got me on your
mailing list under the name Clifford Odets. I'm the publisher of the Manhattan
Mirror. Ring a bell, shark?"
"Not really. Is it one of those free newspapers?"
"Yeah, it's free. But you say that in the pejorative.
Mark my word, it's gonna be the hottest publication in town soon. Numero
uno. Eighteen months and I sell it off for a killing. Know what's gonna
get this paper so red hot?...
You took me by the hand to a part of the city I never knew existed, farther
than the last gasp of public transportation, with twisted little streets
whose names were applied as afterthoughts, after all the really good names
had been taken, where block after block produced nothing of note or exception.
And I remarked that it was fun to travel to places I'd never been before
and you smiled too, pointing to pieces of real estate, asking if they looked
familiar, a school which was just a red box with a chimney, a majestic stone-faced
public administration building with the profiles of lions, to which I said
no, these were not familiar...