So today is, and this feels genuinely odd to type, my last day at The L Magazine, which I’m leaving to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Iceland (that is a true fact).
The L is the only real job I’ve ever had, and my timeline here is also, in many ways, the timeline of my life in the city; I’m tempted to make this into a memoir, but I sort of suspect that not enough time has elapsed yet to make my personal, urban-anthropological and institutional memories as interesting as, say, J. Hoberman’s. Still, settle in for a pretty long post: I may never have a better opportunity to try and remember all this stuff for myself. And now would be a weird time to start choosing my words carefully.
I started picking up The L in the lobby of my NYU dorm during its first year of existence. The L, for the benefit of our younger readers, was once more than 100 pages of predominantly Manhattan-based event listings, in tiny type, with mostly filler ads. What feature copy there was consisted of surprisingly well-written long-form reviews and political arguments (someone named Audrey Ference also had a column called “Zeitgeist Jamboree,” about bars and hipsters and newly retro 90s pop-culture references, which I quite liked); quirky items about New York City history filling sidebars in the back of the book; and brief but often typo-garbled features, generally composed in a self-referential, hectically clever first-person plural.
I interviewed for an internship in the fall of 2004, the morning after a closing night which, typical for the time, ran until 4 or 5 in the morning. (Jonny Diamond actually emailed me to cancel the interview, but I didn’t check my email, was vetted by then-assistant-to-the-publisher Shawn Calo, and started a few days later.) I didn’t really discuss an end date with anyone over the course of my first semester here, so when the new year rolled around I just sort of kept coming in.
As I’ve fallen up the masthead during and after my graduation, I’ve compiled repertory film listings, made collections calls for sales reps, ridden around NYU in a rusty van showing our designer/circulation manager the good places to leave stacks of new issues; written daily event picks, bits of features, album reviews, book reviews, front-of-book items, long political essays, and horoscopes.
(There were also, if you’ll permit a pause for vanity, bar reviews, beginning with a review of the even then venerable Library, on Avenue A, which, though it’s long disappeared from our online archives, I believe to be the first and still to date only L Mag bar review credited to a writer not yet of legal drinking age. I wrote: “What light there is comes mostly from candles in the booths that run along either side of the very narrow, deeply recessed room, painted Twin Peaks red. It’s all vaguely reminiscent of the womb, except that you have to pay for your own booze.”)
I’ve conceived features, written them, edited them, and seen them through production; been an event blogger with a daily post quota back when we started to take the internet seriously (it was assumed that, as a Young, I would take to blogging like a fish to water), and later with the latitude to vamp on national politics, local news, Lars von Trier’s penis envy and things that don’t count as pants; read submissions for Literary Upstart and argued about what to show at Summerscreen; written longer political pieces, front of book items, celebrity profiles. I’ve edited our columnists and reviewers, and stayed closer and closer to the end on closing nights.
And for the last five years, my one constant responsibility has been editing and writing for the film section, during which time it’s been my pleasure to try to become a serious contributor to New York City film culture, while having the pleasure or working with or brushing up against so many people I admire.
Though I’m excited to see more of the kind of writing and features we’ve begun to publish as we graduate from the “overextended well-read guys riffing from their desks” model, what I’ve always loved about working at The L is the opportunity to be a part of that first-person plural, first at the bar where ideas are generated in the space between my unhelpful jokes, and then later, as part of the collective mindset putting down our perspective—still funny and informed, still slightly frantic, still taking such pleasure in each other’s wit and wisdom—for publication and posterity.
Looking back over three- or five- or six-year-old issues of The L, I can’t remember anymore which unbylined feature copy is mine, and which is somebody else’s.
So. I’m especially grateful to a few colleagues: to Scott Stedman, for being dumb enough to start a free biweekly events guide in New York City in the 21st century and enthusiastic about my writing for the L from the beginning; to Mike Conklin, for having the Replacements, Ted Leo and Spoon on rotation on the office CD player in my first ecstatic weeks as an intern at a hip media outlet; to since-departed editor Jason Bogdaneris for deputizing me early in the life of the film section; and to Jonny Diamond, for more than either one of us is temperamentally inclined to articulate. And I’d like to thank pretty much everyone who’s ever lined up on the Dumbo cobblestones in the shape of an L for our holiday card. It’s been a pleasure being a part of the same pronoun as all of you.