Avoid the Puke
New York - Monday, March 17 - Saint Patrick's Day: This is a day I always remember because it is the anniversary of my first online report, which also marks the beginning of my decline into Internet Hell.
In early 1995 I gave up the idea of becoming a multimedia producer - mainly because it didn't exist yet - and when Apple dropped the price of their digital camera by 50 percent, I grabbed one and started to shoot. Those were the glorious days before megapixels.
I chose that year's book salon in Paris for my first reportage. I saw the posters for it on the way to buy the camera, at a place that closed for noon. After they fed they opened up the new shipment and discovered that they indeed had the cameras advertised. Just amazing!
Online that night I found a Web site to take my reportage. Then I went around taking photos - testing the thing - and whaddya know? - it worked. Yeah, well, really cheesy, tiny, blurry, full auto everything, push the button and it held eight shots in its miniscule onboard memory. I was ready to roll on to fame and fortune.
On that day, Friday March 17, 1995, I rode over to Paris Expo from my distant suburb and covered the book salon, which features everything about the French publishing world. I got six kilos of brochures and nicknacks and my eight photos and headed back to the outer boonies.
Did I say it was Saint Patrick's Day? Did I say my wife was Irish? Did I say she invited all the Irish she knew, all the wannabe Irish, the pretenders, and all the outright lushes? I guess I must have forgotten, just like I did in 1995.
I served drinks. I passed around peanuts and crackers. I opened beers and poured wines. I was useful. I even got out the new digital camera and took some shots of folks who were too plastered to care how plastered they looked. They even loved the photos - same day photos of themselves, plastered. If they don't remember I probably still have them.
Some folks passed out. The polite way to put it, is they became overtired. Saint Patrick's after all. So there I was, with 35 dirty glasses and peanut plates, ashtrays fulla butts, wads of confetti and fading shamrocks, you know one-thirty going for two am, when I got to do the book salon photos and write my report. A job is a job I thought and got to it.
The photos had been transferred to the computer's hard disk. The Saint Patrick photos were there too, ready to be used for blackmail. The book salon photos - opened - totally black. What? Like tar. What?
Photoshop to the rescue. You take a photo, looks like tar, and you bend it as far as it will go, until just before it begins to look like three-week old guacamole with lumpy sand in it. Sometimes I went too far and had to start over. It took hours. Four o'clock came and went. I got three or four photos, finally, looking like they were taken with a Brownie with the film in backwards, except they were worse.
That's when I started writing. My report. Followed by the book salon program, three or four days of it, special events, authors appearing, just endless and spelling the damn names correctly harder and harder. Finally, I boosted it all off to California and went to bed about six-thirty just as the local birds began their breakfast tweets.
Now today, Saint Paddy's again, there I was on Fifth Avenue behind the police barricades, looking for a good spot after all the first row seats were taken. It wasn't raining, forecast for sun, best day of the week, and the only sour ointment flying around was the wind pumping out of freezing Central Park, to slot into the funnel formed by Fifth Avenue. Ohhh, lordy my little fingers!
I took refuge in the Apple Store. A clean, well-lit place, underground, full of intent kids playing with iPods and AirBooks, totally ignoring the Paddys passing above ground, their skirts flying in the wind.