I had a friend once who swore to me that The Da Vinci Code was the best book ever written. “Everything you need to know about life is in The Da Vinci Code,” he said.
He’d just returned from a spell in the Marines, and he wasn’t particularly well-read. The Da Vinci Code may have been the only book he’d ever actually finished.
After finishing it, he became fascinated by books. I remember going to Barnes & Noble together that summer, watching him drop hundreds of dollars on any and everything.
Whether he read these books — that, I doubt. He wasn’t obsessed with things, more with the idea of things. The idea of reading. The idea of books.
Even with all these new books, he’d stay on me. A hundred times a week, he’d implore: “You gotta read The Da Vinci Code. It’s incredible!!!”
I’d reply saying that I’d likely survive if I didn’t read The Da Vinci Code. That I was sure The Da Vinci Code was good, but that The Da Vinci Code was also probably awful.
He’d ask me how I knew, in that same way one asks how you know there’s no Big Foot or Loch Ness Monster. And I’d say that a person who never read a book before telling me something was the best book ever written, wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.
“Books like The Da Vinci Code are for certain kinds of people,” I’d say. “They’re books for people who don’t read books.”
Not long after that, my friend got a job temping at a large financial services agency. One of the biggest. I don’t think he did anything important, but he was very excited about the job. He was a dreamer. A positive attitude, that’s all you needed!
Sometimes he’d talk to the executives. He regale them with stories, things he’d read on the internet or learned through his varied experiences as a college dropout and the military.
They took a liking to him, because even though he wasn’t book smart, he had a certain degree of emotional intelligence. A charm. The kind of person you meet and for some strange reason want to have a beer with. Yet he was always just a temp.
One day, he got the big idea that if he couldn’t work there officially, I should. There was a corporate communications job open. Writing. Something. Who the fuck knows what, exactly.
He passed my resume to someone there. I had nothing but music and media experience, but surprisingly, they called me for an interview.
Since a job is a job, I figured — hey, let me at least go in for the interview. I even went and bought a suit, the first since my Bar Mitzvah, special for the occasion.
When I sat down for the job interview, all proper-like, the HR woman looked at my resume and said:
“You’re young and already doing exciting things. Why on earth would you want to work here?”
I told her: “Exciting things don’t always pay the bills. You know what’s exciting? Getting paid. That’s exciting.”
“But here,” she replied, “I come to work some days and my eyes just glaze over.”
“Well then, maybe you should quit,” I said. “Life’s too short to not really be living it, you know?”
“I know,” she said. “But I have a family, and once you get to my age, it’s not so easy. You can’t just quit things. And besides, it’s not so bad — it’s a check!”
“Yeah, I guess,” I replied. “I mean, look at me. That’s why I’m here talking to you right now. I get it.”
“Well, the job. Yeah, I’ll have to circle back with some of the executives here, see if we can bring you back in for a second round of interviews. But look, it was really good that you came in. You’re an inspiring person and I’m glad we met. I know that regardless, you’re going to go on and do great things.”
“Uhh, thanks,” I said. “You too.”
We shook hands and I walked out. I remember leaving the office thinking: wait, what?
Then, I rode the elevator downstairs, walked to the other side of the building and rode back up up again — this time departing in the splashy hallway of Atlantic Records, where I had a meeting scheduled.
“What the hell are you wearing?” said the person meeting me. He was dressed in a hoodie, Jordans and jeans. I was in a suit. I looked like a square.
When I left, hours later, I took the train to Whitehall St., boarded the Staten Island Ferry, then took a bus to my house. Ninety minute commute.
“HR woman was on my dick,” I texted my friend, joking in that way you do when you’re 23-years-old. “No, but seriously, I don’t know — felt like I was interviewing her. She didn’t seem interested.”
“You’re gonna get hired, bro,” he texted back. “You can totally do that shit. You’re so smart. You got this.”
“It’s all good bro,” I wrote back. “Even if it doesn’t happen, I don’t care. I didn’t want to do that shit anyway. This woman was so sad and boring. Just dying up there, collecting a check. I think I’d kill myself if I had to do that for too long.”
“It’s not so bad,” he replied. “Money is money, and besides — there’s some hot girls up there. I can’t take ’em all down myself. LOL.”
I never got called back for a second interview. My friend’s temp position soon ended. I opened a recording studio and my friend went back to school for fourth or fifth time.
We talked about backpacking Europe together the next summer, one of those fantasies you have in your early twenties, before life really starts, before you know what you want to do with yourself.
Eventually, he got into a relationship, I got more involved in music. He got a job, I got one too. He lost a job, I lost one too. He got married. I got married.
We never did take that trip. Mostly, we drifted apart. But over the years, on the occasion that I was in Europe, or somewhere else not America, I’d shoot him a text — “Just landed in London,” or whatever. To let him know the dream never died.
One day, not long after he started raving about it, I picked up a copy of The Da Vinci Code, and started reading.
It was pretty fucking good.