Return of the Soup Man!

by mayberry on July 21, 2010

This morning on NPR I heard this story about the return of Soup Man, aka the Soup Nazi. I might have to add “eat soup even if it’s 100 degrees” to my BlogHer ’10 must-do list, because it made me hungry. I’m a little skeptical, though, because the original soup Nazi, Al Yeganeh, doesn’t make the soup or even own the business anymore (the current owner says he “remains involved”).

At my first job in New York, I worked in a building on 57th St. and Broadway. Mr. Yeganeh held court a few blocks away, at a counter that opened directly onto the street. Even before the Seinfeld episode, it was a big deal to go there. The line was really long, and the anxiety was real, because the guy already had a reputation and it was based in true fact. WOE BETIDE the person who didn’t respect the line, the meticulous ordering procedure, or the need to “have your money ready!”

It cost $7 for a cup of soup. It came with bread, a piece of chocolate, and two or three grapes. At that time, that was a lot of cash for me to spend on lunch (actually, that still seems like a lot, now that I eat leftovers for lunch every single day). So it was a very special treat.

But it was every bit as good as you’ve heard.

The right fit

by mayberry on April 19, 2010

One of my favorite tasks as a magazine editor was copyfitting. As an issue of the magazine came together, a printed copy of each page or multi-page article was circulated among the staff. The assigning editor checked her pages for errors and also usually had to cut or fill so that the text would fit properly on the page.

I woke up the other day thinking about how much I liked doing that (I must have been having a flashback dream). It’s like a good word game. While retaining the meaning and intent of a passage, you must add,  subtract, or change just the right number of words  to fill the space without causing a dreaded widow or orphan. Plus, at the time, we did this on paper. So we got to use cool proofreaders’ marks.

What can I say? I am a word nerd. I recently took over editing and publishing our school’s monthly newsletter. It’s in a two-column format, so I returned to my old widow- and orphan-hunting roots. And I put everything in the same font. This revolutionary change earned me more than one heartfelt appreciation from a fellow parent.

We word nerds know a fellow traveler when we see one.

Last month Nancy reminisced about cars in her past, and I commented that, even at my advanced age, I’ve never had my own car, not counting the ones I now share with my husband. In high school I had to walk, borrow from my parents, and even (horrors!) had a babysitter whose main job function was to drive me and my younger siblings around after school.

I went to college in West Philadelphia where a car was unnecessary and expensive, not to mention a certain target for theft and destruction. Then I moved to Manhattan–same situation, multiplied a few dozen times.

Apparently I moved in with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, just to get my hands on his car keys.

Still, when I was a magazine editor I went on two trips to test-drive cars. The first one was for Buick Regal and GM put us up at a very swanky hotel (no wonder they are out of money now). I spent a couple of days driving the car around a parking lot with all kinds of simulated hazards. During an evening cocktail party with the GM PR people I let slip that I lived in New York and hadn’t actually been behind the wheel of a car in four or five years. PR man almost choked on his hors d’oeuvre.

That one trip made me an expert in test driving, apparently, so my editor also sent me to Alaska to preview a Volvo station wagon. And just to emphasize the ruggedness of the car which is now, in fact, my own mommymobile, I also learned how to shoot a rifle and go salmon fishing (with hip waders and everything). Besides seeing Alaska for the first and so far only time, I also got to meet a lot of blond Swedish dudes.

These days, the blonds I share my car with are the ones I gave birth to; and I will be happy to trade my four wheels for two as soon as it’s warm enough to get out my bike again. But if anyone wants to send me to Sweden (or Santa Fe, or Seattle, or frankly, Stroudsburg) to check out the latest offerings, my bags can be packed in a matter of minutes.

One two three four … High Five!

by mayberry on March 6, 2008

OK, I know I’m mixing my children’s media here, but that song is an earworm if I ever heard one.

What I’m really talking about over at The Full Mommy today is the new, younger-kid edition of Highlights magazine, called Highlights High Five. It may not have any dopey morality tales (and who knows–today’s Goofus & Gallant are probably more subtle than they were a generation ago), but it does have a ton of fun features for kids ages 2-6.

Get the full scoop over at the The Full Mommy — including details on the craft that kept my kids busy for more than an hour. If you want in on that action, Parent Bloggers Network is holding a blog blast tomorrow, and they’re giving away 5 subscriptions.

I’m surprised the piano didn’t move itself

by mayberry on August 2, 2007

Photo from Modern Mechanix All this talk about the political candidates reminds me of a little story. Gather ’round, kids!

Back when I was a magazine editor, I worked for a smallish publication with an accordingly small staff. This meant we had to do everything ourselves, including stuff way out of our/my league. Once a year we put out a big story, one of those lists that are designed to garner lots of media attention and may or may not be based on fact. It was our version of the swimsuit issue (and in our case, it really was based on a tremendous amount of research and hard work–which I know because in later years I oversaw that project too).

To get the maximum bang out of this particular buck, we always had an event to promote our story when it was published. And somehow in 1996 I wound up in charge of this thing. Me, the young, green editor with less than zero event-planning experience. Me, the totally conflict-avoidant delicate young thing. Taking the lead on this breakfast honoring lots of multi-billion-dollar companies, attended by all our own corporate VIPs and advertisers. And the guest of honor: was the current vice president of the United States, Al Gore. Who also happened to be running for re-election at the time.

At one of the pre-party walk-throughs, someone from the campaign was there to check out all the arrangements. She was a fast-talking, take-no-guff, totally stereotypical New Yorker. She barked orders about security (yes ma’am, there would be bomb-sniffing dogs) and press access and what he’d say and how long he’d stay. She told us exactly how the room should be set up, and that included moving a grand piano across the room (because otherwise it would interfere with the TV cameras’ shots).

The banquet manager gently demurred on moving the piano, explaining that doing so would require extra staff time and also a charge for retuning the instrument. Our magazine was so poor that we used 5-inch floppy disks and didn’t have voice mail–I had an ancient answering machine with a cassette tape so old that callers would frequently inquire whether I was landing helicopters on my desk. So keeping costs down was absolutely essential.

For a few seconds I tried to broker a compromise with the scary campaign lady, sputtering out lame alternatives as quickly as I could come up with them. She, of course, was having none of it. Almost immediately, she wheeled to face me and yelled “He’s the vice president of the free world! MOVE THE PIANO!”

So yeah. We moved it. I voted for Clinton/Gore that year anyway. But I’m still kind of afraid of that campaign staffer.

When Photoshop goes bad

by mayberry on March 3, 2007

If you happen to have the latest issue of Cookie magazine (which I only do because Jeff brings it home from work–let’s be clear on the fact that I would never pay money for it), please turn to page 37.

Oh wait! It’s online.

Look at the picture of the mom in her sunny yellow dress, holding a naked one-year-old in each arm.

Now look more closely at the little boy on the left. It’s not as obvious on screen as it is in print, but he has been completely emasculated by an overeager airbrushing. I realize that it would not be cool to publish a picture of this child’s meat & potatoes, but seeing him without them is freaking me out.

And furthermore, it looks like the older child is using unnaturally prehensile toes to try to sneak a look up his mom’s skirt.

Round of sarcastic applause to the photo editor on this one. Of course it’s hard to get a decent picture of two babies and a preschooler. But you should have kept on trying.

Supermodels, supermoms, you and me

by mayberry on February 12, 2007

In my magazine days, the directive was clear: The reader wants service. All stories must have service. Push the service on the cover. Service, service, service. So everything we published had to be full of tips, how-tos, solutions, advice–you know, all the “8 easy ways to get your toddler to beg for brussels sprouts” and “10 top weight-loss tips from coke-addicted supermodels” and the like. It was exceedingly rare to publish a personal essay. (“It happened to me” disease-of-the-week or crime stories were the exception, of course.)

Fast-forward to now and the burgeoning blogosphere, and especially the mom-and-dad-o-sphere. Everyone seems to be writing and reading and commenting, and most of what we’re all posting falls into that “personal essay” category. Is it that we are an entirely different audience from those magazine readers/subscribers? Is it that blogs are free, so our requirements are different–we don’t feel such a need to get our $2.95’s worth of advice?

Or is it that those magazines had it all wrong, all this time? That we were craving personal stories, unfiltered thoughts and ideas, and were just waiting for this medium to both express them and consume them?

I wonder.

And She Shall Have Her Ven-ge-ance

by mayberry on September 1, 2006

Originally posted at Bethiclaus as part of the Blog Exchange; the assignment was to write a short story based on one of these prompts from McSweeney’s.

Georgia looked again at the precise stack of white paper, the one that had been sitting on a corner of her desk for more than three weeks. Every time her eyes met the accusing pile, her stomach tightened a tiny bit more. Like in the Grinch, when you see his heart shrinking to two sizes too small.

Just read it. Just the first few chapters.

She’d have to, of course. There was no getting around it, no allowing it to burrow under all the other manuscripts in her office. No opening, somehow, the hermetically sealed window and letting each page float gracefully down to the street.

I can’t. I can’t stand it.

Val poked her head in the door. “Ready to go? I’ll walk you to the subway.”

“I can’t. I have to read this.”


“Yeah. Ruth wants a report on everything with a February pub date by tomorrow. This is the last one.”

‘Cause it’s gonna suck. Or worse, it might actually be good. Then I’ll really fucking lose it.

“Shit. Well, see you tomorrow then.”

After she waved goodbye to Val, Georgia removed the big blue rubber band from the manuscript and centered the pile on her desk. She left an empty space to the left where she would place the pages she’d read, face down. She rooted around for a good pen. She found a pad of sticky notes that were neither too big nor too small. She checked her email again, skimming quickly past Ruth’s reminder. She went to the ladies’ room and the water cooler.
For god’s sake. You are a grown-up and a professional. Forget about who wrote it and just read it.

Deep inside her bag, her phone buzzed. Nick.

“Hi…. No, still at work… awhile, I have a manuscript to read… no, I can’t. I really have to finish this tonight.”

Wish I could tell him. I hate this.

“OK, talk to you later. Uh huh.”

She switched off the ringer on the phone and tucked it away.

If we feature this—if I have to actually write something about this cretin for publication—I will officially freak out.

She squared her shoulders and flipped over the cover letter, the title page, the page that said “Acknowledgments TK.”

Yeah, acknowledge this, asshole.

Did I actually just think that? This moron has driven me to complete cliché.

Page 1 stared her in the face. After she read the first sentence, she smiled. A tiny twist of the lip, at first. Then she laughed, loud and long.

“Debra brushed the sand from her blouse, took a last, wistful look at the now putrefying horse, and stepped into the hot-air balloon.”