Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I only know two of the Black Table’s “Big Four,” mainly because I rarely come out of my one-bedroom suburban cubbyhole to work the New York media party circuit. But I have seen the light of day long enough to meet both Aileen Gallagher and Will Leitch.

To the extent I know Aileen, I can tell that she’s of stout constitution. How do I know? It’s the hearty handshake I get whenever we have our standard conversation:

J.K.: Hi, Aileen.
A.G.: Hi, Joel.
J.K.: How goes it?
A.G.: Fine. You?
J.K.: Fine.
A.G.: Cool.
J.K.: Cool.
A.G.: Well, see ya later, Joel.
J.K.: See ya later, Aileen.

I’ve received weaker handshakes from cops and firemen. When I get that squeeze, pictures of her childhood fill my brain: a three-bedroom tenement on the Lower East Side, five older brothers, an angel of a mom, and a dad that looked like Brian Dennehy, all yelling at Aileen to “toughen up” and “grow a pair.” Lots and lots of “good-natured” fighting between her and her brothers. All the while, Aileen dreams of becoming a writer and leaving her hardscrabble life.

That’s exactly how Aileen’s life played out. Either that or I just described the plot to Angela’s Ashes. Not really sure. Again, I don’t know her all that well …

However, I know Will a little better, but not by much. I know, for instance, that he roots for lame football and baseball teams (I mean, really … when was the last time anyone saw a cardinal in Arizona?), and that he outwardly exhibits an Opie-esque aw-shuckness even though he’s as cynical as a New Yorker can get. Just his Deadspin entries alone prove that he can snark it up with anyone; of course, for all I know, Nick Denton is editing out all off the “Gosh-es” and “Golly Gee Willikers-es” from his posts.

He was nice enough, though, to invite me to his place for a Halloween party; I decided to dress up as “Chubby I.T. Guy Pretending to Be a Writer.” On the other hand, I had to admire the intestinal fortitude Will had to muster in order to appear at his party in his chosen costume: Gay Sweaty Batman. I mean, he could have been plain ol’ Batman. I would have even accepted Sweaty Batman. But Gay Sweaty Batman? That took some brass ones to pull off. The blue tights, the fake six-pack… if he had left the party and walked in the Halloween parade in the Village, he would have fit right in.

Oh, and the cowl: by the time I left the party, it was dripping with booze and smelled a little like head cheese; you’d think the man would have taken it off before it started sliding off on it’s own, but no such luck. Again, it probably would have been acceptable on a typical Friday night on Christopher Street, but the puddles on his hardwood floors made it treacherous to walk around.

I do wish all four Black Table editors luck in their endeavors as Actually Paid Writers. If I do get a chance to see Aileen and Will sometime in 2006, I’ll wish them luck in person, right after I stop laughing at Will’s Gay Sweaty Aquaman costume.


Joel Keller is a freelance writer from New Jersey. He is looking forward to next Halloween, when he will go to parties as “Chubby Writer Pretending to Be an I.T. Guy.” His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Village Voice, Salon, and—most ashamedly—The Black Table. You can read his daily blatherings at TV Squad.

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