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Since our landlord hung a red lamp outside our office door, we´ve had more visitors than ever before.
This has given me an idea. To tell the brutal truth, we have not made a fortune out of
our profession of journalism. I suggested to Harry that we might change
our trade, and enter a profession even older than our own
A GUIDEPOST REPRINT
Complete and unabridged
WHERE JOURNALISTS JUNK IT
by Bill Cemlyn-Jones
25 April 1969
GP cover, 25 April 1969
Be it ever so humble—and I suppose it is rather humble—there´s no place like your own office. I´m proud of my office. It is not really grand, I suppose, less esoteric, you might say, than Mr. Heffner´s penthouse suite in Chicago. We haven´t—as yet—any sunken Pompeian swimming pools, color stereophonic TV, or a heliport with built-in cocktail cabinets. And there is a grim shortage of nude bunny rabbit girls scurrying around the joint and twitching their cute little furry tails.
I share an office with Harry. Actually, when I say I share it, perhaps I am exaggerating slightly. Our office isn´t quite big enough for both of us at the same time. Not to worry. Harry is one of those early risers. I think he suffers from insomnia. Anyway, he comes roaring into the office between 11 and 12 noon when I am still asleep. I arrive at 3 p.m., we squeeze past each other in the narrow doorway, and Harry goes home for lunch. Harry comes back after lunch, and I squeeze out to the bar across the road for a coffee and cognac. Then Harry goes home—or at least he tells me he goes home—and I return to the office to find out if there are a couple of pesetas left in the petty cash box. Works out O.K.
There´s nothing squalid about our place of business. From the piles of unpaid bills which litter the premises, anyone can tell that there´s nothing cheap about us. Also, we have a carpet. When we moved into our premises I quoted an ad I´d read in a magazine in my dentist´s waiting room. “A Bigandlow on the floor,” I pointed out to Harry, “rates a, er, a—hell I can´t remember the rest of it.” “Whore?” suggested Harry. I racked my memory, “Could have been,” I said, but I didn´t think that was the catchline. “Hell,” replied Harry, “maybe it will come back to you. Let´s go and get a cup of coffee at the Casablanca.”
I never have remembered the end of that poetic jingle, but the idea of a carpet impressed Harry. We went to some superior stores in Madrid to look at carpets. We saw some wonderful floor coverings, each weighing about a ton. Frail but anxious young salesmen lifted these massive rugs from the top of the pile and crashed them down on the floor for our inspection. After hauling out three carpets, the salesman crumpled up with a slipped disc, and another eager volunteer took his place. After a dozen salesmen had been shipped off on stretchers, we began to feel a little embarrassed, so we asked the price of these carpets. They told us. “We´ll think about it,” said Harry firmly and added, “Come on, Bill, let´s go and have a cup of coffee at the Casablanca.”
But eventually we got our carpet. Harry cut off two feet of a piece of stair carpet from his—then—rented house, and it is that faded little objet d’art which today adorns our office floor. Harry says it is Persian, but I doubt that. Nevertheless, it is an antique; some of the cigarette burns alone must date back to the last century.
I am still not entirely happy with our carpet. I may be a snob, but I won´t be happy until I have a wall to wall carpet. I discussed the matter with our landlord, “Bill,” said Aldo reflectively, “I´m afraid I can´t help you about getting a bigger rug. But the walls of your office are pretty flimsy. Maybe we could squeeze them together a bit until they meet the carpet?” It is an ingenious and economic solution. Every day I kick the office walls a bit, and dammit, they´re getting closer. By next Christmas I reckon we will have a wall to wall carpet.
Ours, of course, is a strictly working office, and we don´t go in for any ostentatious chi chi decor. But that doesn´t mean that we are totally insensitive to the aesthetic traditions of Western civilization. Apart from the unpaid bills, the empty bottles, the broken glasses and an interesting collage of unanswered cables, we have hung —or rather scotch-taped— our walls with an intriguing collection of 20th-century art. There´s a 1953 airline calendar—already a collector´s item. We have a Technicolor and autographed portrait of a distinguished West African President, wearing all the orders and decorations which will fit into the wide-angle lens. Peggy Guggenheim, we hear, would like to acquire this, but we have another tentative offer from a whisky firm who wants it for their “Men of Distinction” series.
Another amusing trompe l’oeil is a picture of a Nazi general in full battle array, smothered in Iron Crosses and swastikas. On microscopic inspection, this proves to be a photo of Harry, who last year got one day´s work as an extra in a World War II movie then being shot near Madrid. Another picture which should have considerable appeal to amateur collectors of 18th-century art, particularly the School of Watteau and Fragonard, features our old comrade-in-arms, Jay Rutherford. Jay used to share our cubby hole until he put on weight, discovered he couldn´t fit into the office anymore, and reluctantly returned to New York. The yellowing pic shows a beaming Jay shaking hands with, I think, Teddy—charge!!— Roosevelt. Dammit, that´s not Teddy; I believe, dammit I´m sure, it´s Joe Stalin. Now I look more closely, it isn´t Jay at the other end of the hand clasp either. It´s—I´m not lying—Ronald Reagan. Now how the hell did that picture get here?
Our humble office is quite a rendezvous of the Haute Monde. There is always a regular stream of VIP´s—bill collectors, visiting firemen and just plain nut cases. I like company, but there are occasions when one wants peace and quiet. Particularly when you are trying to make a tape recording or interviewing someone by phone in Bongo Bongo land. Aldo appreciates our problem, and has installed a system of flashing lights in the passage leading to our office, which are intended to convey to our visitors that WE DO NOT WISH TO BE MOLESTED. Regrettably, Aldo—who I believe is color blind—chose red lights for his early warning system. Red lights, I am informed, have a certain special significance for many vulgar people. Anyway, since Aldo hung a red lamp outside our office door, we´ve had more visitors than ever before.
This has given me an idea. To tell the brutal truth, neither Harry nor I have made a fortune out of our profession of journalism. I suggested to Harry that we might change our trade, and enter a profession even older than our own. “Let´s talk about it over a cup of coffee in the Casablanca,” said Harry.
Featured image (red light)/frankieleon via Flickr, CC BY2.0
Quote mark/Oakus53 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA4.0
Old office/Claudio Soavi, CC BY2.0 via flickr
Carpet/OXLAEY.com, CC BY2.0 via Flickr
Nazi parade/upyernoz via Flickr, CC BY2.0
Texts, prints, photos and other illustrative materials depicted in GUIDEPOST have been either contributed by the authors of each published work or, to the Magazine’s good-faith knowledge, are in the public domain or otherwise benefit from the allowances of Articles 9(2), 10, 10(bis), and applicable others of the Berne Convention for the Protection of literary and artistic works.