I want to talk about bucket lists. I know that that movie is a few years old now, but I still think it’s an interesting idea. You know, your bucket list. The list of things you want to do before you die. Things like winning an oscar or climbing mount everest, or eating a double down or sleeping with someone famous. For example, I’d like to sleep with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, at the same time, at the age they were in the movie The Bucket List. Yup. They’d totes still get it.
My personal bucket list for this year also includes eating a souffle and going to the aquarium. And I have already ticked off one of them. Guess who’s got two thumbs and is achieving things in 2011.
But have you ever gotten really close to your bucket dream and then failed? Had it slip through your fingers? Had your fantasy dashed against the rocky shore of reality?
Because I have ladies and gentlemen. I have a tragic story, a cautionary tale for you all. About how, despite Beyonce’s warnings, I let my big ego get in the way of my bucket dream.
I have always wanted to have a column in a national newspaper. I think that would be really cool. One where I could get on my soapbox and write heartfelt and hilarious things about stuff and issues and have people send me fan mail and marriage proposals and death threats. Then after a few years I could publish a volume of my collected works and have it go straight to the bargain bin at Borders. And then Borders could go bankrupt and discount it even further. That was my dream ladies and gentlemen. A simple dream.
But I thought there was no way that this could actually happen you know, in reality. But in 2010, it almost did.
While I was overseas, I wrote travelogues for my friends and family and emailed them out about once a month. Anyway, to cut a long story short, through some incredible twist of fate my writing got passed on to the editor of a national broadsheet newspaper that shall remain nameless. But I will give you a clue: it’s a Melbourne newspaper and it’s not the Herald Sun. Got that? Broadsheet, Melbourne, not the Herald Sun. You picking up what I’m putting down? Cool.
And I was pretty damned thrilled. It felt like the stars were aligning and fate and kismet and destiny were finally smiling on me. You know, I thought it was the universe making up for me having no core strength and a tendency to fall in love with gay men. I mean seriously, how often does life throw you a big juicy bone like that?
Like the time, and I swear to God this is true, I was walking down the street really stressed out about money because I was living on about $10 a day at the time and you can’t afford to buy both beer and food on that much- you have to choose one or the other. And I looked down and there was $25 cash just lying on the ground. Swear to baby jesus. And I’m pretty sure it belonged to the junkie who lived downstairs and he would have cut me if he’d seen me take it but still! That’s pretty fricking weird right? And this column thing was magical just like that. Like magical stolen junkie money.
And so I was excited. But cautious. Because I knew that this could all come to nothing. So I proceeded very carefully. I sent a ‘carefully’ worded email with some ‘carefully’ collected articles and stories and pressed ‘send’ very carefully. And then I waited. And waited and waited. And I didn’t even tell anybody! I told no-one in case nothing came of it and I would look like an idiot. And for those of you who know me, that is an incredible feat of self control!
When the editor finally got back to me, she said that I should send her ten story ideas. That that’s what she got all potential columnists to do. I was a potential columnist! I was so fucking excited but still trying to play it cool so I spent about three days brainstorming. And I felt like a writer. I felt tortured and contemplative like a writer, not tortured and insecure and socially awkward like a comedian. I sat in cafes and I pondered over coffee. I sat in a park and wrote in a moleskine. It was all I could do to not wear a beret and talk about myself in the third person. You know, like all writers do?
And so I sent her in ten ‘carefully’ constructed ideas. And they were good ideas. No, fuck that, they were great ideas! Those ten ideas were my A game! I pulled out all the stops on those ideas! There were at least 3, maybe four good ideas in that email- but they were very well worded!
And so I waited. And waited and waited. And I got a brief and I’m not just imagining it here but slightly curt email back saying that ‘Unfortunately your suggestions sound more like story ideas than a personal column’ and thus ‘they wouldn’t work on the back page’ and I thought ‘Great. Constructive feedback right? It’s not a rejection- she just wants me to send her more ideas! Different ideas, better ideas! Of course!’
So I sent her ten more column pitches. That day. That means, ladies and gentlemen, that in a 12 hour period I had sent her 20 ideas. That is a lot of ideas in such a short amount of time. For those of you who need a visual, that’s like pushing 20 little perfectly formed, diamond encrusted, poignant yet hilarious turds out of your bum-hole in half a day. It’s a lot. It’s a lot of ideas.
And I was still excited. Still imagining a future of soirees and canapes and living out my days in a garret, where I could eventually go crazy and kill myself like all great writers do.
And so I waited. And waited and waited. And this time when I opened my inbox and found a reply, I may have been a little bit drunk.
This time I found a definitely patronising email saying ‘I don’t think your ideas offer a new perspective for the backpage’ and ‘it’s not in line with what’s normally printed’ and blah blah blah.
And I thought well, Miss editor schmeditor, we’ll just see about that! Om! Because I was eating a kebab at the time. In my bed. Because that’s just how I roll.
Just to back track a little, while I was researching what they printed on the back page of this national newspaper that is based in Melbourne and is not The Herald Sun I came across an article by a well known Melbourne columnist. Let’s call him, for litigation sake, Manny Splatz. Now this column by Manny Splatz was solely about his quest to purchase a cucumber. Not a cucumber as a symbol of the modern man’s masculinity being threatened by poncey salad ingredients or as a metaphor for penis envy no, Manny Splatz was making tzatziki and he wanted, nay needed! to tell us all about his quest for the ultimate cucumber! No wait, that makes it sound kind of exciting- it wasn’t exciting! It was boring and indulgent and stupid and it made me really mad.
So, with that in mind, I sit down at my computer, reeking of souvlaki and cigarettes and see this rejection letter. And I think to myself, You know what? I reckon I should reply to this email right now. So I type:
‘Dear such and such,
You’re right, an article about Manny Splatz buying a cucumber is much more interesting.
What a smug little bitch! Oh my god!
So I go to sleep. And when I say go to sleep I mean I passed out. And when I wake up in the morning I wake up with a massive start and the crushing weight of remembrance.
Because I’m gutted right? Because I really wanted this and I’ve fucked it up and there’s no one to blame but myself. I have totally self-sabotaged it, I let my ego get the better of me. And I’ve lost my future career as a world famous columnist in the manner of Carrie Bradshaw before the racist second movie.
A few hours later I get an email back from the editor and it’s just one line. No greeting. No preamble. It just simply says:
Do you think you’re a better writer than Danny Katz? Fuck! I mean, Manny Splatz. Oh well, I think the game is up!
And I, under the deep illusion that this woman still might want to publish ANYTHING out of my subconscious, try to charm my way out of it by sending her this email:
I am passing no judgment on the writing of Danny Katz or quality thereof (I totally was), simply suggesting that if the purchasing of salad vegetables is considered worthy of print, then surely at least one of my suggestions is of equal value.
And because I sent you a snide comment in the middle of the night (for which I must apologise) here’s the truth.
On my vague ‘bucket list’ (see? It all comes full circle) of life ambitions, writing a column for a newspaper is relatively high up. Fuelled by disappointment and having consumed a large quantity of beer as well as a lamb kebab, I thought the smartest thing to do would be to reply to your email.
I was trying to emerge from the situation with some semblance of creative dignity- but have since learned the folly of conducting business while under the influence of garlic sauce.
Plus, in the back of my mind, I thought it would make a good anecdote- about which I might write a newspaper column one day- though perhaps for the Sydney Morning Herald- since my Melbourne print career is now pretty much shot!
But of course nothing came of it and instead of leading a glamourous life of soirees and canapes I am now learning about how many days you can eat from a single can of beans. Ah. Swings and roundabouts.
But I still have all this rage- this sense of failure and feeling of ‘what if’? If only?’ Which is horrible. Which keeps me up at night. This sense of regret- well, that and the first season of Game of Thrones. Which is fucking awesome.
And I don’t want to carry this around with me anymore. I want to let it free- let it out into the universe. So I’m here tonight to publicly apologise to Danny Katz. Because to me, he has become the symbol of this whole debacle. I don’t know the man personally, but I do ADMIRE HIS BOLD USE OF CAPITALISATION!
But I don’t just want to say it to you all here tonight- I mean you guys are great but I want my apology to go further than whatever 2 people might read this blog.
So… if you check the public notice section of the Age newspaper- shit I mean Melbourne’s premiere broadsheet newspaper- you’ll find printed a public apology from me to Danny Katz.
And I wanted it to say this:
Dear Danny Katz,
Even though you had nothing personally to do with ruining my chances of being published in a national newspaper, you have since become the inadvertent symbol of my rage and representative of the impotent fury that burns in the very core of my being.
My thwarted destiny has become your cross to bear even though you have never met me and have no idea who I am or what I do. But I want to apologise to you Danny Katz, because it is not your fault that I am a boozehound who is stupid enough to email under the influence.
I WISH YOU WELL AND MAY YOU HAVE ALL THE CUCUMBERS FOR ALL THE TATZIKI IN ALL THE WORLD!
But it was really fucking expensive! So instead I printed this:
And let that be a lesson to all of you.