Thursday. 03.20.03. Thirteen hundred hours. I have successfully infiltrated the Conde Nast cafeteria. Over the course of the last few weeks, I have spent countless secondsentire minutes, evenin preparation for this mission. The careful transmission of multiple electronic mail messages to people on "the inside," the establishment of a plausible cover ("lunch"), and careful analysis of the enemy's behavioral patterns have paved the way for what will prove to be my most ambitious espionage operation yet.
Upon entering the Conde compound, I had been spotted by a Conde Nast executive who recognized me, despite my camouflagea wrap dress and "fuck
me you" boots. Having been detected and my mission compromised, I probably should have aborted immediately, but the executive in question appeared to be friendly and even proferred a bit of freshly-gathered intel.
Gawker had reported previously that the Hamburger Guy in the cafeteria had been fired after impatiently tapping the glass partition between himself and The Annaan act of insolence not to be repeated by any cafeteria slave wishing to end his or her day in the employ of Si Newhouse, Jr.
Not so, said the mole. "He just wanted to learn how to make pasta, so they moved him."
"He wanted to learn how to make pasta...so they moved him," I said to myself very slowly, stroking my chin and squintingas one is wont to do when imagining a voiceover in, say, a spy movie starring oneself. "Veeeeeery interesting."
"Whhhhhhy would he want to learn how to make pasta?" I wondered.
Then the horror struck. "Perhaps it is...desinformatsia!" I thought. "What if he's being held hostage in the Vogue photo editing department, frozen in terror as The Anna takes a grease pencil to an enlarged close-up of his own face? What if he's being made to vertically stretch staff headshots for optimal thinness? What if he's being forced to lick the nicotine stains from Graydon Carter's fingers or hand-pick the lint from Si Newhouse's favorite sweatpants?"
I eyed the Armani-clad double-agent suspiciously.
"I'll bet I know why you're here," he chuckled.
[I use the word "chuckled" because existing assets report that "chuckled" has been banned from the Vanity Fair vocabulary repertoire. (Curiously, the following words have not been banned, as of the April issue: "luxuriant", "Liza Minelli", "exquisite", "nibbling." Astoundingly, the following sentence has not been banned: "A few years ago, I sailed into the harbor at Cap d'Antibes aboard a friend's boat." -Graydon's April Editor's Letter) As part of my ongoing quest to subvert the system, I have resolved to use the word "chuckled" with reckless abandon.]
He leaned in, still chuckling. "Pay close attention to the salad bar," he said. I think I detected a conspiratorial tone. Then off he went to mock the poor, kick small children, and scoff at public transportationor whatever it is Conde Nast executives do.
I pressed on, making my way to the next obstacle: Conde Nast security. I easily talked them into giving me a "guest pass," by ingeniously having them call someone I knew "on the inside," having pre-arranged for the insider to demonstrate a flicker of recognition when my name was mentioned. I eluded their suspicions even further by loudly complaining that "that pathetic Remnick" wouldn't stop calling and begging me to write for his silly little publication. I don't know if anyone by the name of Remnick works for Conde Nast, but my little ruse seems to have worked, thereby demonstrating the first rule of journalism: when in doubt, make shit up.
I was handed a guest pass in universally tasteful shades of black and gray with a little circular white sticker affixed to the lower half. The floor number was clearly marked on the circle, but I can't reveal which one, as I have agreed to protect my source. (Twenty four hours later, I will realize that the little white circle has developed a bright pink grid of some sort. One of those newfangled timed-release stickers. How cunning! But also flawed; I take some small comfort in knowing that had I not come out alive, The Authorities would have been able to pinpoint the exact time of my death by the pinkness of my sticker.)
I carefully scrutinized the interior of the elevator. I noticed that the New Yorker offices occupied the both 20th and 21st floors, above Vanity Fair, Vogue, Glamour, etc,each of which occupied only a single floor. "Hmmm..." I
thought chuckled. "The New Yorker gets two floors and everyone else gets only one. The New Yorker is also on the top floor. What could it mean?"
So here I am in the cafeteria. The Frank Gehry-designed "interior" looks vaguely like something out of a Jetsons cartoon, with its curved walkways, plexiglass partitions, and titanium walls. I briefly wonder if it is in a fact a space ship, as a secret alien invasion would explain so much of Conde Nast culture. I ponder this thought for a few seconds, chuckling.
Ever my weakness, my short attention span gets the best of me as I become distracted by something sparkly in the corner of the room. It turns out to be the shiny bald head of yet another Conde Nast executive. Moving on...
The salad bar takes up much of the center space. I wonder if this, too, is symbolic. The Conde Nasties are elbowing each other to get to the lettuce, which is, surprisingly, garden-variety iceberg and not organic mesculin green. (Does The Anna know?) The mole had also mentioned that the egg tray would likely be full of yolks purposefully squeezed out of the egg whites by calorie-conscious fashionistas. This proved to be disturbingly true.
Next to the salad bar is a lonely cookie stand, hereby referred to as The Cookie Stand of Profound Isolation. Occasionally, a Nasty (usually male and seemingly heterosexual) will cautiously approach the forbidden cookies, glance around to see if anyone's watching, and swipe one in a startlingly swift motion. The more expert pretend to be fetching something from the salad bar with one hand as the other subtlely approaches the contraband.
I make my way to the sandwich bar, stealthily looking for the MIA burger guy, who is nowhere to be found. I grab a sandwich and, in my haste, a non-diet sodawhich I will later conclude may have come dangerously close to giving me away. I am now being yelled at by the cashier, which I will also later conclude may have come dangerously close to giving me away.
On to the dining area. The curvy center aislethe "catwalk," as it is affectionately and accurately knownis routinely pounded upon by heavy stilettos and occasionally by heavy executives (usually male and seemingly heterosexual.) One particular fashion Nasty in a purple Chanel-esque jacket, a white skirt, and what appear to be black Louboutins, stomps down the hardwood walkway with such a ferocity that the Conde maintenance department could have used her to re-nail the boards to the floor, had it foreseen the opportunity. I suppress yet another chuckle.
On the way out, I notice a wall full of headshots. The top ad sales people for each publication are proudly displayed in smiling spotless black-and-white. I briefly consider calling a headhunter friend and reading the names.
I also notice a "comments" board in the hallway. This week's "comments": "bring back the Nantucket nectars!" "Ice cream every day!" I consider adding a few of my own:
"I came in for lunch today around 11:30, ordered my usual, and as I walked to corner right of the dining hall, I noticed that someone was sitting in
my Mr. Newhouse's seat. I would like to point out that this is exceedingly disrespectful to Mr. Newhouse as I Mr. Newhouse called that seat first. Mr. Carter said that he called the seat 'infinity' but I Mr. Newhouse called the seat 'infinity infinity,' effectively making the seat Mr. Newhouse's. The seat, therefore, belongs to me Mr. Newhouse. Please see that no one sits in it. Ever."
"I am BEing held hostge in the Voogue photo-ed dept. PLEaSe help me."
"What do you mean I can't smoke in the fucking cafeteria? Do you people know who I am? When you run your own goddamn magazine, you can tell me where I can and can't smoke! Not until then. I'll be in Monaco for the next two weeks. When I get back, there better be a fucking titanium Frank Gehry-designed ashtray sitting at my table. - GC"
I love it here.