Often the songs on my iPod activate memories, long streams that cascade through my mind until the morning walk is over. There are times when I get so lost in thought that I can’t remember walking parts of my route. My body handles the navigation all by itself while my mind is busy elsewhere.

Older songs, naturally, carry more baggage. Sometimes the newer stuff triggers little more than memories of earlier walks. Not much fodder for nostalgia there.

little creatures“And She Was,” the lead song from Talking Heads’ Little Creatures, was the first song I heard this morning. It cast me right back to 1985, the year of the album’s release. I was a big Heads fan and living in a group house just outside Boston. I had quit my job as the editor of an obscure rock-and-roll magazine that spring to take a copy-editing position at a business magazine. The subject matter stretched the boredom envelope in all directions but the job did pay a living wage—at least for a 24-year-old single guy living in a group house.

It wasn’t long before I realized that Purchasing (“the magazine for purchasing professionals”) wasn’t quite right for me, so I began blindly sending out resumes to magazines I thought looked interesting. Much to my surprise, the editor of a once-prestigious publication in Washington, D.C., responded with a phone call asking me to come down and interview for the job of managing editor.

So the next Saturday I found myself sitting on an airplane at Logan Airport, my walkman headphones clamped to my ears, with a cassette  tape of Little Creatures filling my head with “And She Was” as the plane accelerated down the runway and lifted its nose into the sky.

From Washington National airport I got on the Metro and rode into town. I was early for the interview, so I disembarked at Metro Center to have a look around. I found it a little disappointing. There wasn’t a national monument in sight, just office buildings and an urban mall called The Shops at National Place. I got back on the Metro and headed to Union Station. Little did I know that about 17 months later I’d meet my future wife for our second date at those same Shops at National Place. Fate runs in unexpected directions.

The editor met me at a small restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue, across from the magazine’s offices and just up from Union Station. He was a short, somewhat fussy man with a mustache, friendly enough but perhaps a little reserved. I would later develop a loathing for him, but during the interview he seemed pleasant enough.

After lunch the waitress brought over the dessert menus.” I’m all set,” I said to her.

The editor looked at me with disbelief. “I can’t believe you don’t want dessert,” he told me.

“Well, I’m pretty full. That was a big sandwich.”

“Still, it’s dessert,” he said. “I can’t understand not having dessert. It’s my favorite part of a meal. Why, I consider myself to be quite the dessert connoisseur. No meal is complete without dessert.”

Well, I’m not stupid. I can take a hint. I turned to the waitress. “He talked me into it,” I said. “I’ll have a piece of the carrot cake.”

She turned to the editor. “And for you, sir?”

He briskly folded his menu and handed it to her. “Nothing for me,” he replied.

Maybe that should have tipped me off that this little fellow was kind of a jerk.

After lunch he showed me the magazine’s offices. When I mentioned my enthusiasm for the new Talking Heads album he told me how much he hated David Byrne. Another warning sign? (In fact, “Warning Sign” is a Talking Heads song. “Warning sign, warning sign,” it goes, “I see it but I pay it no mind.”) Months later the editor insisted on putting Byrne under the “Not Hot” listings in the magazine’s ghastly “Hot and Not Hot” issue.

So, yes, I ended up taking the job, for what seemed to me an astronomical salary of $25,000 a year. I didn’t learn until later that the woman I replaced hadn’t been fired until after I was hired. No wonder I had my interview on a Saturday, when the magazine offices were empty. I think that’s the way Machiavelli would have done it, had he worked in the publishing industry.

After a short and eventually somewhat stormy tenure I was told that my services were no longer required. The meeting took place in the editor’s office. The magazine’s publisher was there, along with two other staffers who were also losing their jobs. The publisher told us the magazine was moving to New York—which was not true—and that the three of us would not be going along—which was. The editor sat at his desk and stared glumly at the ground. Eventually he mumbled something about “one of you” not being good about following orders, or something to that effect. I think I knew which one of us he meant.

The magazine managed to put out one more issue before it ceased publication. Fortunately, I soon found another job at a brand-new aerospace publication, and I remained there for more than a decade before moving to Pennsylvania for another magazine position.

I remember playing “And She Was” as I drove to my interview for the Pennsylvania job. For years afterwards I credited the song with magical job-acquiring powers. Whenever I had a job interview I would listen to “And She Was” first. It might have worked for a while, but it hasn’t done much for me lately. Maybe it’s time to switch to a new Talking Heads song. How about “Found a Job”?

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