2 of my favorite things in the March issue
This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while (in fact, there are several of those, but one at a time). We had a lot of great stuff in the March issue. But two of my favorite pieces were two of the shortest. I think each is a great example of what magazine editors are always on the hunt for–little items that "surprise and delight" the reader, to use the old industry cliché. (I heard David Granger, editor of Esquire and one of my publishing heroes, speak once, and he said he hated that cliché. He said they aimed to "thrill" the reader with every page. Sounds good to me.)
The point is, we strive for every page to be an experience for the reader. I liken it to taking a walk in Manhattan. The first time I ever went to Manhattan, I walked 80 blocks in one night. I kept meaning to stop and get a cab, but I wanted to see what was on the next block. So I kept going.
Anyway, both of the pieces were written by Jeremy Markovich. On Twitter, he goes by @deftlyinane. I’ll be mentioning him soon in another blog post, because he has a big story in the April issue. The first piece ran in our front of book (another industry term) called The Buzz (George Washington–I think it was him–once called Charlotte "a hornet’s nest of rebellion"). We heard about a new service where you could rent a friend for the night. So we asked Jeremy to look into it. He came back with a fun story about his, uh, experience. I liked it because it was funny and interesting and, above all, honest, both about his assigned subject and himself. His premise: He tried to find someone who would play a geeky board game with him. Here’s a passage:
The first guy I tried was pictured wearing a suit jacket, a giant sombrero, and a goofy grin. Perfect. The person who picked up the phone had a hard time speaking English. Maybe not.
Finally, I found a guy who’s the same age as me. He looked like me. Hell, he had the same first name as me. I called him. He texted back, asking for details. That’s when I dropped the bomb. “Wow! Forty-page manual!” he wrote. “Looks pretty complex!” Then he stopped answering my messages. No other rent-a-friends responded to me. I had an obsession so geeky I couldn’t even pay someone to take part in it.
Here’s the story: "Best Friends in Life Are Free." Go read it.
My other favorite piece also happens to be, to the best of my recollection, the first poem we have published in my 16 years at the magazine. The cover package in April was on sandwiches. Occasionally, in food packages like this, we ask writers to write a very short piece proclaiming their affection for a simple example of the package’s subject. We call them odes (I think we borrowed that term from Texas Monthly magazine, which I am sure borrowed it from someone else. I am full of industry insights today). To wit, I wrote odes to black coffee and sausage gravy for our breakfast package in the June 2010 issue.
And so, for our package on sandwiches, we asked Jeremy to write an ode to the Harris Teeter sub. He turned in an actual, honest-to-goodness ode, which we printed verbatim. It’s fantastic. Here it is:
O Teeter! my Teeter! my fearful trip is done;
My gut has weathered every rack, the sub I sought is won;
The deli near; slicers I hear; the butchers’ eyes all twinkling,
While follow eyes toward tuna wraps, the menu slim, engulfing;
But O pork! dijon! ham!
O the salted meats and spreads,
Where on the slab my meal lies,
Scrumptious, cold on bread.
O Teeter! my Teeter! rise up among the aisles;
Rise up — for you the Subway quakes — for you the Quizno chills;
For you long lines and famish’d maws — for you the stores a-crowding;
For you they call, the starved mass, their eager stomachs churning;
Here Harris! dear feeder!
This farmlike bounty spread;
It is some dream behind the glass,
You’re luscious, cold on bread.
My sandwich does not answer, its crusty goodness lone;
My hoagie does not feel my teeth; it cold cuts provolone’d;
The crowd is anchor’d full and plump, their VIC cards scanned and run;
From fat’ning trip, your tasty grip, comes in a cheese-baked bun;
Exult, meatball, and sing, O Swiss!
But I, with hero’s tread,
Walk home with glorious sust’nance bought,
Delicious, cold on bread.
I mean, seriously, a Whitman-inspired ode? In a feature on the best sandwiches in the city? I took great joy in publishing that.