I highly recommend the new Kindle Singles essay "The Junket" by Mike Albo!
Mike Albo would have every reason to be bitter - he agreed to go on a junket that is only very thinly veiled in this piece, that was covered extensively in NYC media sites, which resulted in his losing his column in the paper he refers to here as The New York Paper. Instead, he uses this essay as an opportunity to look back at his life as a writer in New York and the things he's had to do to make a living. What makes this such compelling reading is that Albo uses the humor he brought to The Underminer but he is as much the target of his sharp wit as anyone else, although his other targets certainly come under much-deserved scrutiny.
This particular junket's destination wasn't revealed until they reached their destination. Albo writes, "I wasn't so psyched to go to Jamaica, where gay people are maimed and killed and the prime minister made a special point to declare that LGTB rights would never be recognized, but on the plane the organizers got us all psyched. 'Can you believe it? I can't hear you! Jamiaca! Woooo!'"
He weaves in the story of the junket with his various jobs in Manhattan media, from working at "the Death Star for magazines but gayer" and learning not only how to cover high fashion, but how to covet it. Ultimately, this is a story that would make perfect reading for anyone considering writing as a profession, because Albo shows that even at the highest levels, at the pinnacle--and his description of not only what he did at The New York Paper but how it felt, as well as his continuing reverence, though not unreserved, for it, is one of the high points of this piece--it is still a struggle to survive.
Albo juxtaposes all the swag his colleagues received at various other magazines as well as his efforts to make the right decision about the junket with the outcome, in which The Paper first absolved him of wrongdoing, then changed its mind once it came under more minute scrutiny. But whether or not you agree with their decision, this piece has plenty of other merits, because Albo is not using it to settle a score or argue that he was in the right. In fact, he never points fingers, or this would read much differently and more as a way to settle a score than to explore why it is that he writes.
He concludes with a question about New York City that I think almost anyone who's lived here has been forced to ask themselves: is it worth it? "I have forgone something lasting to continue my long-term relationship with the most exciting but unreliable boyfriend of all--New York City. Maybe it's time to break up with it, to emancipate myself from the teasing, taunting, sexy metropolis that has kept me within its grip my entire adult life. But how do I break up with a city? How long am I supposed to believe I can 'make it' here? Or does none of it matter because it's all about advertising?" Once again, my biggest takeaway was how much Albo wants to write, and will go to whatever lengths he can to do it, not for the money per se, but for the expression. What you think that expression is worth is what's explored here, but I can safely say this essay is worth the $1.99.
And when you're done with it, I highly recommend my favorite piece of his: a tribute to a Katell Keinig concert that will wipe the idea of swag or writing about cravats right out of your mind, because it's so beautiful (in Sean Manning's anthology The Show I'll Never Forget).