SLICE AND DICE

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#53: The Readings Coordinator, by Paul Florez

I was recently hired as the Readings Coordinator for my graduate program at The New School in the fall. This amazing position will put me in charge of the student readings as well as allow me to have a hand in all the events sponsored by the writing program. For the student readings, I’ll be hosting them—making sure the food and wine arrive on time, introducing the readers, and making sure everything goes off without a hitch.

My friend Lou Pizzitola had the time of his life being the Community Relations Manager over at Barnes and Noble, which is a position like a readings coordinator except on steroids and more fabulous. While Lou was introducing authors like President Obama and Tim Gunn, I would sit in the audience, observing Lou dressed in his finest John Varvatos as he so eloquently introduced his authors. I thought, “Man, I want to be like this guy one day.”

And now at the tender age of thirty, being Lou Pizzitola is finally a possibility. This position is a small stepping-stone in what could possibly be my post-Graduate school trajectory. Oh, and did I mention I get to work with my friend Demetri? Someone who is not only a kickass writer, but one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met. He’s seriously so cool and confident that the only reasonable explanation is that he’s posthuman.

So to say I can’t wait for the first student reading in the fall would be an understatement. I am eagerly counting down the days on my iCal.

However, being an executive assistant at a major book publisher taught me event planning is an unpredictable sport (that’s right, I said sport. I’ll let Demitri correct me on that later) and anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

For this article, I’m going to explore the possibility of how the first student reading will go. Below is the best as well as the worst case scenario.

The Best Case Scenario

I arrive thirty minutes early, my bowtie perfectly knotted, and I caress the podium.

“This is it,” I say to myself, taking in a deep breath.

The pizza is delivered on time, the bartender is chilling the white wine and, oh my god, wouldn’t you know it? The bartender is Ricky Rodriguez, someone who endlessly tormented me in junior high.

“What have you been up to since 8th grade,” he asks me sheepishly.

I tell him about graduating with honors from Florida State, how I moved to New York after a job offer at Marvel Comics and then spent the last few years working in publishing but ultimately decided being a writer was my calling. I brag about all my bylines.

Dude, I love Slice Magazine,” Ricky says. “I’ve been trying to publish with them for years, but they said I just don’t have what it takes.”

I pat his shoulder sympathetically. “I’ll put in a good word with Maria and Celia.”

The new students begin pouring in and Demetri and I great them all at the door.

“Welcome to your student reading, we say in unison, unplanned but totally in sync. Demetri and I look at each other with approval. We were a bit unsure if we’d hit it off as coworkers but any anxiety is blown away in our very first fist pump.

“We should come up with a team name,” he suggests.

DnP” I quickly reply.

He smiles because he totally gets it’s a reference to the two comic book creators, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who regularly collaborate together and are called “DnA” by fans.

Everyone from my program is there. Kyle kisses me on the cheek, because after all I haven’t seen her all summer while John, Daniella, Liz, Robert, Loren and Kay all take their seats. Both Emilys are there as well, sipping a glasses of white, and are so impressed with the event they corner me to take a selfie with them.

“We need to Instagram this student reading in real-time,” the shorter Emily says.

This event is simply fabulous because you’re so fabulous,” the taller Emily proclaims. “Oh and your John Vavatos jacket is so fetch.”

Yes, in this universe Taller Emily was able to make fetch happen.

With the approval of the Emilys secured, I take the podium, and make a clever joke just as the President of the University walks in. He looks at me from the back of the room and smiles.

“This kid with the perfectly straight teeth has potential,” he thinks to himself.

In the end the audience gives our readers a standing ovation and I see Lou in the crowd, raising a glass and I raise mine back at him. It’s the perfect start to my final year as an MFA student.

The Worst Case Scenario

I try so hard to be early but realize one of my Pomeranians have peed on my John Varvatos jacket that I just got back from the dry cleaners.

Boys, which one of you did this,” I scream and both their ears fall back, thereby making me feel guilty and abusive.

I don’t have time to properly tie my bowtie so I use the clip on buried deep in my dresser. Unbeknownst to me, the bowtie is hanging lopsided off my collar as I enter the room ten minutes late because there was a bomb threat on my subway.

Ricky Rodriguez is the bartender, but it’s only a part-time gig as he preps for his Master of Sommelier Diploma exam, the world’s hardest wine exam.

“Got to pay the bills somehow,” he laughs. “The wife is expecting and I’m working hard to prove I’m a worthy husband and father. I want my kid to have everything I didn’t have.

Of course, much to my horror, Ricky Rodriguez has transitioned from playground bully to ingénue with the heart of gold.

I take the podium, make a joke and Ricky is the only one who laughs out of pity.

My Invisilign falls out of my mouth as my professors from the previous year walk in. Demetri, mortified I am his coworker, silently denounces DnP.

Barley audible (because the saliva from reinserting my invisiligh on stage is overwhelming my mouth), I introduce the first reader and exit the podium certain I just wet my pants.

In the end, Lou is only a figment of my drunken stupor and Kyle was held up at a New York Times event where she was offered a staff position overseas and I never see her again. To make matters worse, the wine was served lukewarm cause there was no ice to be found (it’s not even Ricky’s fault, who by the way is fist pumping with Demetri).

“This wine taste like cat piss,” the Emilys say in unison as they Instagram a photo of the suspiciously yellow tinted wine. “We expected better, Paul.”

So there we have it. My biggest hopes and fear for this upcoming year. How will the first student reading turn out this fall? Well, tune in for my September article to find out.


Paul Florez is currently receiving his MFA in fiction at The New School. He is a contributor for the Huffington Post and his work has also appeared in Slice MagazineQueerty, and The Advocate. You can follow his misadventures over on twitter @mrpaulflorez.

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