Nothing Special

You wake up one morning and realize you're not as special as your parents and teachers told you you were

A rare discovery: the long-rumored Reporter’s Trumplate… ‘Donald Trump openly clashes with his _________ of __________, issuing some of his harshest criticism yet’

The House Intelligence Committee isn’t the only body that can release a good memo!  Not usually known for in-depth reporting, Nothing Special is proud to announce a first-ever leaked-document exclusive. Through a high-ranking official, we have been able to obtain a copy of the reporter’s template long-rumored to exist for any article about Mr. Special himself.  We present it, in its entirety, below:




FROM: REDACTED! (but likely Ben Smith of BuzzFeed)

Here’s that template for your next piece! Note that when you see slashes, you must choose ONE of the words, not all (!), for your article.

Donald Trump openly clashes with his _______ of __________, issuing some of his harshest criticism yet

The gloves came off on ____day, when President Trump let forth a scathing rebuke of his __________ of _____________. _______________, chosen to succeed ______________ when he was forced to resign after running afoul of the President, never quite gelled with Mr. Trump, whose brash/intuitive/wandering/unscripted style contrasted with his more staid/calm/focused/rational approach.

“This is the first time, in my memory at least, that a president has so openly feuded with his __________ of __________. Such a rift is not only unusual, but actually antithetical to what the whole President/_________ relationship is supposed to be about,” said Paul/Dorris _____________, who has written three books on the subject.

Trump's one-time cabinet members

Credit: Andrew Harnick, Associated Press, via the Boston Globe. Of the Trump administration officials in this photo, only Vice President Mike Pence remains, and he is a twit.

The whole chain of events dates back several months, when the __________ Post/Times reported that Trump had privately dressed down ____________ at an Oval Office meeting, leading the latter to redden/burst into tears/bite his nails/sing “Gypsy”/wonder what the use of remaining alive was–this despite decades of an ostensibly competent business/military/political/sports/legal/medical/diplomatic career. That strained relationship was on rare public display when Trump publicly blasted _________’s statement as incomplete and making him feel undermined/confused/gassy.

“Sad that ____________ forgot to mention that I clearly beat crooked Hillary Clinton in the election, that the only Collusion was between Russia and the DNC/Democrats/staff who really barely worked for me,” Trump wrote yesterday in the early morning tweet, continuing,

“Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Emails!!!!, the Podesta Company, my ratings, I would have won more of popular vote if I hadn’t focused so much on the states that matter because I’m smart (Crooked H never even visited _______btw!) Covfefe, Little Marco, China. And glad [former Never-Trumper] finally seeing things clearly and now endorsing my candidacy. Although now I won and am actually President, and you don’t get to be President if your [sic] not a stable genius.  We will drain the swamp in November!!! #FAKE NEWS. Mueller has nothing. And STAND for the national anthem Black people!!”

According to a senior White House official, Trump has repeatedly bristled at ____________’s high octane/goofy/laser-focused/punctual briefing style, which he has compared to a tortoise/schoolmarm/Star Wars character/Dipsie Doodle/FBI official. At one point, Trump actually stopped the meeting, wagged his index finger and said, “This guy’s a regular wordsmith!/hoot!/Negative Nancy/sexy guy!/Count Dooku!” That same official said he had urged ___________ on several occasions to try to use fewer words and simplify things for the president.

Speculation has already started about ______________’s replacement as _______________ of _____________, with a growing consensus pointing to _____________, whom Trump has been rumored to be warming to/taking walks with/cooing over/calling nightly/attending tickling parties with, and who has previously called for the dismantling of the position.

My relationship with the woman who comes after me at therapy.

It started with eye contact. And no this is not what you think—one of those “connected eyes on the subway moment and wondered if our lives would be forever intertwined even though I’m fairly content” moments. That may be my next piece. No, this woman is probably a half-generation ahead of me–a safe distance.


She usually has papers/magazines on either side of her on the couch, which means she hasn’t fully embraced the digital thing. Slight bags under her eyes; a Jewish bubbe-esque nose that’s not large but just a little curved and time-worn…maybe a touch waxy like plastic fruit. Our therapist is Jewish. I know this not because I’ve ever discussed it with her, but because she will sometimes let me know when she will have to miss a session, or a series of sessions, and then those dates just happen to line up perfectly with Jewish holidays. So it’s this unspoken thing we know. I wondered once if she ever took actual vacations, and at one point she told me she’d be gone for a longer stretch, on both sides of a weekend!—but I looked it up and it turned out it was just Simchat Torah.

My co-therapee has a scarf, spectacles (I believe they’re spectacles), above which she peers at me when I come out, in a soft, non-judgmental and maybe slightly maternal smile. I’m not sure if she has kids. She could. Or she might be someone who has reached this point in life without—and mostly she’s just fine with that and sometimes she thinks ‘what if?’  Hence therapy. We all think ‘What If?’  And a purple parka—not a natural purple like peacock or iris but a lighter, mauve purple that is the hallmark of a Century 21 or Woodies, if Woodies were still around.  Her hair is mostly blond, with maybe dark underneath. It seems she’s recreated the color she most liked her hair to be but doesn’t always bother with the upkeep.

So it started with eye contact and a little knowing smile, that always has a touch of “what are you in here for?” which people in a therapist’s office always silently ask of each other.

I go to therapy before work. How is she able to take this later mid-morning spot?  Is she retired?  Is she a stay-at-home person. Does she blog? Is she Chocolate-Covered Katie?? No, that’s a pert young Reese Witherspoon-esque beauty…or is she?!  Could someone stay that thin when they’re always coming up with new chocolate recipes?  Really?!  And would you have time to come up with a million ways to use applesauce and almond flour to make your fudgy brownies only 500 calories each instead of 550 if you were young and pert?  You’d have that much time?  Or…would you be an older lady in a mauve parka who reads paper magazines, goes to therapy during morning work hours on a Wednesday and then goes home to research and write up HUNDREDS of recipes for baking chocolate and chocolate substitutes?  And if that were the case, mightn’t you find a shutterstock photo to put up as your picture, of a pretty, Reese-Witherspoon-esque smiling gal, since you know you’ll already have the female/baking enthusiast/gay/cultured crowd, but the demographic you really need in order to go viral is the teenage male hetero crowd!  Then again, if you were my friend, the mauve parka lady, would you be that savvy about your online metrics and audience?  Or would that be your son who works on that for you (Or in this case maybe your nephew or niece)??  Hmmm.

Anyways, it started out with eye contact.  A smiling sigh.  A kind of, here we both are.  What’s that Paul Simon song, “say aren’t we in the same spot at the same time on the very same day?” There’s no hiding what we’re doing here–saying we are meeting a friend or have a ‘thingy’ to go to before-hand.  We are both at the shrink’s office and there’s just no getting around that.  So there’s an automatic relief.  A conspiracy.  Does this woman like me as a person?  Do I remind her of someone?  Does she feel a kind of need to take care of me and let me know it’s OK?  Is her name Beatrice?  Katherine (hence Chocolate-Covered “Katie”)?  But Katherine is not very Jewish and that would throw off some of that speculation.  Let’s say Beatrice or Rachel.  Actually Beatrice isn’t very Jewish at all!  Didn’t Dante write all of his poetry to Beatrice?  Well you can bet she wasn’t Jewish!  So where did I get Beatrice?  And actually Rachel is too Jewish, almost like you’re trying to overcompensate.  The truth is I have no idea what her name is, just like I have no idea if she has kids or if she likes me at all. The truth is I know very little about her, other than that she sees my same shrink, has a parka, reads, and is extremely patient. She’s always just sitting there on the couch, looking up from a magazine, even if I’ve gone several minutes long. It’s the total opposite of the look you get at Starbucks if you get to the front and don’t know what you want.

And I will say our relationship has grown.  I recently started to return the smile.  Or at first I nodded, as if to say, “Yes, I have received your smile and acknowledge the similarity of our circumstances, at least in terms of our choice of therapy.” But at some point a nod, after maybe like twenty weeks, starts to feel a little impersonal.  So I added a smile back.  Not a big booming smile, but one appropriate in measure to the one she’s been giving me.  ‘I have received your smile and I return your smile because we know we are co-conspirators of the same cult, and our particular leader is a soft-spoken Jewish woman of 30s/40s range who, when we might meekly ask when would be a good time to talk about stopping, returns the question with, “Why do you think you’re asking this now?”

This morning I said “Hi.”  Not just a smile, but a “hi.”  A month ago we weren’t talking.  Now we are saying “Hi.”  Next month we’ll probably be talking about “This is Us” and having other cultural experiences together.  I actually saw a billboard today for a clothing company on the way to work, “RESPECT ALL CULTURES,” at 36th and 8th Ave, and I thought, that would make a great slogan for a yogurt company!  My parents always thought I should go into advertising.  An ex-girlfriend was told the same thing by her parents.  At one point we wanted to open up an advertising company called “Our parents always told us we should go into advertising,” but the relationship didn’t last long enough.  Clearly I did not take my parents’ advice.  I actually didn’t go into any ‘thing’ thing, where you go to an office and work regular hours and produce results.  I write and do a million other things that tend to encourage chaos.  I wonder, if I had gone into advertising and had a steady job, and was more (air quotes) productive, if I wouldn’t be at therapy so much, talking about how I want to be more engaged and productive.  But if that were the case, I also would’ve never met my friend sitting on the couch when I come out, whom I’m now saying “hi” to and progressing further with, and of course I would have never written this.  Which means that my whole life has been leading me to this moment.  It’s nice when things feel so meant to be.

What does she talk about in there?  Does she get chastised by the therapist for trying too hard to be a ‘good’ analyzant, instead of just being herself?  Is she made to see how she’s so concerned with “making it” that it gets in the way of her actually making it?  Or, is she worried that her cat talks to her but refuses to do so when other people are around?  It could be any of those things.  Life is very hard and very sad, and ends badly, so there’s always something to talk about.  Is therapy working for her?  She seems so relaxed before her session.  Can she get any more relaxed after?  Does our therapist spice up her life rather than calm it down?  Does our therapist prefer listening to her or me for 45 minutes?  Because you know she prefers one or the other.  Therapists are human though they deny it.

I guess the most important question is, does my friend here feel like she’s becoming happier from therapy? Or…maybe an even more important question is, “Why does everyone have to be happy?”

Why do we just accept this as everybody’s goal in life? Aren’t people different? Let’s imagine, to use a hypothetical, that a cat decides to go to therapy because he can’t stop chasing mice. Nature or nurture, whatever—he can’t stop chasing mice. Through therapy, he questions why he wants mice so badly. What is it going to bring him once he catches the mouse? And once he does, won’t he just want the next mouse? Is the construct he’s created for himself, “must get mouse,” working for him? In other words, is it making him more happy/successful or is it getting in the way of that happiness?

The cat goes to therapy for years, and it’s a very good shrink, who’s cured his friends of all kinds of things—crinkly plastic, yarn, dog food, and general curiosity. He starts to feel different. He cleans himself up a little and takes care of his whiskers. He puts on a suit and goes to work. If he thinks he wants a mouse, he just gently sets that thought aside. He meditates and starts doing daily writing exercises.  He tells all of his friends how great he feels, and how the introspection is opening up new worlds to him and breaking him out of cycles. Every now and then he wants a mouse, but he gets better at not engaging with that voice (which of course comes from trying to be as successful as his father and isn’t really his voice anyway).  He stays in therapy, because you can always, always grow, and lives a very happy, contented life. But if he does all this, and even if he feels happy and more engaged with the world and cat humanity, is that happiness tinged by a little dishonesty? And that pleasant and contented cat, who dresses well and no longer thinks so much about mice, who no longer feels the need to “win” at everything and stand out, who has finally stopped “chasing” whatever it is he was chasing—because it was never really about mice—if all of that is the case, would he really still be considered a cat?

I wonder if my therapy friend thinks she’s getting more fulfilled.  Or just less hungry.


Failing Hard

It’s been some time since our last post, but little has changed for we who suffer from “specialness”–except perhaps that the world is catching up.

One such revelation that, like “Specialness,” did not spread instantly–if it did admittedly spread easily.

Many of you have no doubt seen this very late-to-the-game piece from the New York Times about colleges who are finally trying to cushion the blow for those who enter and realize they are not as special as life has led them to believe.  To note, this apt description by Smith student Cai Sherley,

We all came from high schools where we were all the exception to the rule — we were kind of special in some way, or people told us that…So you get here and of course you want to recreate that, but here, everybody’s special. So nobody is special.

To which we at Nothing Special reply, “Duh!”  In truth we are thrilled that the world is catching on to this phenomenon we isolated and named at the beginning of the decade, and that it’s doing so at a faster rate than for other historic revelations, such as the heliocentric model, natural selection, and squeeze cheese.  We are glad that Smith College, during final exam period, created a projected screen of public failures for all to see, including this one from a literature and American studies major,

“I drafted a poem entitled ‘Chocolate Caramels’…[which] has been rejected by 21 journals … so far.”

At the same time we totally understand why this poem has been rejected 21 times, as it’s truly a terrible title for a poem.

by Mark Anderson, from

Smith’s initiative, called “Failing Well” and clearly inspired by OUR VERY FIRST ENTRY, in which we coined the term “Fearless failures,” actually awards its students, upon joining, a “Certificate of Failure,” which declares:

You are hereby authorized to screw up, bomb or fail at one or more relationships, hookups, friendships, texts, exams, extracurriculars or any other choices associated with college … and still be a totally worthy, utterly excellent human.

We at “Nothing Special” are still not sure we entirely agree with this.  We are extremely protective of our status as “non-failers,” especially in areas like extracurriculars which we so carefully accumulated in high school in order to get into college, college in order to continue to impress people, and after college because we are still trying to impress God-knows-who that we are deeply committed to freeing Richard Gere from letter writing campaigns tested on animals.

Still, we can’t fault Smith and other colleges for trying to convince students that there’s more to life than being a stand out, even if we’re still not sure exactly what that is.

The Relive Box

Well it’s almost been a full year since my last post, and it wasn’t even that great a post, so I figured, there’s no time like the present to be a little proactive.

The truth is I hadn’t been challenged as much with my own Specialness of late.  Perhaps I was finally starting to think that I might be coming to grips with being an average member of society–not a stand out, not highly verbal, not impressive for knowing all the state capitals (which is much more impressive when you’re in 4th grade than it is as an adult–it’s amazing how many adults know their freaking state capitals).  I also have had kids–little, actual, non-virtual, children, and there’s nothing like being a parent to realize that you’re not as special as your own parents told you you were.  Because now there’s just no question that you’re taking a back seat to the much more needy, much more exciting, much more full-of-potential and…um..special little people in your house.  Becoming a parent can temporarily offset the inconsolable condition of feeling too special to deal with the mundane problems of life!  Ah, but “temporarily” is the key word.  If there were any permanent cure, do you really think any of us would hesitate to take it?!  Actually we might hesitate, because we’re ambivalent about being special–that is, we kind of DO want to keep the disease– which is part of the problem in the first place.

other-worldly box and back of man looking

The Relive Box. Illustration by Julien Pacaud for the New Yorker

All of this is to say that I was in what we’ll call remission, when I read “The Relive Box” by T. Coraghessan Boyle in the March 17th edition of the New Yorker.  Where was the March 17th edition of the New Yorker?  In the bathroom, of course, where a friend told me all New Yorkers live.  Why did it take me six months to read it?  I was getting to it!  The title caught my eye, though I don’t always read the New Yorker fiction.  Special people like to get considerable mileage out of the time they put into reading, and if it’s the New Yorker, this usually means soaking up lots of information about something not all over the news but still relevant enough to be impressive to use in conversation.  ie.

“Well, Cory Booker is a man on the rise, but did you know that the educational transformation he began in Newark has kind of ground to a halt, particularly when Baraka was elected as his successor, not Shavar Jeffries?”
“How do you know all this?”
“I just do.”

Fiction can of course come in handy if it’s impressive-sounding, like a previously unpublished Fitzgerald short story, but this doesn’t hold true for writers you’ve never heard of.  T. Coraghessan Boyle?  I don’t even think he has the chance to become a famous writer unless he changes the name.  But the title…that title.  Could it really be?  Another person has imagined a not-too-distant-future world in which one of our core issues as Special people, living in the past–longing to return to long-ago successes, loving one’s past more than one’s present because it’s easy, contained, unassailable and never-to-be-returned to–could someone else have made that the subject of a short story?  Could someone else…a real author…not a Nabokov or Fitzgerald but still, he was published in “The New Yorker!”…be also fighting this demon, and exploring it via the written word?  The answer was yes.

Since most of you likely did not read–you were too busy trying to get a leg up on others and were reading non fiction or IMPORTANT fiction; I know, I’ve been there–let me give a quick summary.  A father narrates to us a period of a few days in his deeply troubled life.  His wife has left him, and part of his coping is to spend hours each night on his recently-purchased Halcom X1520 Relive Box with In-Flesh Retinal Projection Stream.  Essentially, Memory Porn, this latest gadget (which comes out in generations like any cellphone) is somewhere between an x-box, a computer, a viewmaster, and a movie player.  By stating a date and time, it can run the film of your life back for you–so that you can “Relive” moments of extreme elation, humiliation, and everything in between as many times as you can stand it.  The metaphor of pornography, and the avoidance of reality, runs through the entire piece; if you had any doubt, there are painful moments like the below, when the narrator’s daughter walks in on him using the Relive Box:

…”I can’t believe you,” she said.  “Do you have any idea what time it is?”

Bleary, depleted–and guilty, deeply guilty–I just gawked at her, the light she’d flicked on when she came into the room transfixing me in the chair.  I shook my head.

“It’s 6:45 A.M.  In the morning.  The morning, Dad.”

I started to say something…

“What?” Katie demanded.  “Were you with Mom again?  Is that it?  Like you can be with her and I can’t?”

“No,” I said, “no, that wasn’t it.  It wasn’t your mom at all…”

A tremor ran through her.  “Yeah, right.  So what was it, then?  Some girlfriend, somebody you were gaga over when you were in college?  Or high school?  Or , what, junior high?”

And his daughter is right.  The dad isn’t even going back to the mother, but rather to pivotal scenes from relationships previous in an avoidance even of his recent past.  Is he trying to look for a pattern?  Punishing himself?  Numbing himself?  A combination?  It’s a little later that one of my favorite passages comes:

…She’d come looking for me, dutiful child, motherless child, and found me not up and about and bustling around the kitchen, preparing to fuss over her and see her off to school, the way I used to, but pinned here in this chair, like an exhibit in a museum, blind to anything but the past, my past and nobody else’s, not hers or her mother’s, or the country’s or the world’s, just mine.

I won’t tell you how it ends–though you can probably tell this story is more of a meditation than an O. Henry-style plot thriller.  The important thing to note is how Boyle has developed a literal embodiment of the Specialness curse, exposing our unique mix of narcissism and self-loathing.  We are passionately, obsessively, and sometimes erotically drawn towards our past.  It offers so many comforts.  If we succeeded in something–say had a great comeback, or made a clutch lay-up, or kissed the girl, lost ourselves in the dance, impressed the world with our [fill in blank], then we can get our jollies from reliving that moment.  But what’s more, if we failed in something, if we lost the girl, missed the chance, choked on the shot, let ourselves be humiliated by someone–we can still get our rocks off.  We can relive the failure, breathe a sigh of relief that it’s over, believe that since we failed then, the pressure is off now because all is ruined, and, in general, still get an enormous rush from the reliving.  Remarkably, whether it’s our failed past or our triumphant past we’re reliving doesn’t really matter.  Any form of our past is STILL safer, and often sexier, than our current circumstances, because the present is pregnant with possibility and opportunity to fail and be witnessed failing.  The present is terrifying and often exhausting to Special people.  It’s also, of course, the only place where we can do anything to change our situation–hence it comes filled with pressure and expectation.  If the Relive Box ever comes out–and it’s hard to believe Google isn’t working on it–Special People, led by yours truly, will be the earliest adopters of the technology.

So what do we do when we want to visit the Relive Box (which we all know we have without needing the enabling technology)?  As your humble guide and fellow sufferer, I of course have no answer to this.  The past is too comfortable to think we can really avoid looking at the Box.  We will look.  It’s our comfort food.  When we do, though, can we try to focus on the feeling, and not the event itself?  Why, Oh Guide to the Gifted, I can hear you asking, would we do that?  Isn’t this the same thing–perhaps even worse and more seductive?  It’s not.  To remember a feeling, of success at least–of closeness, or passion, of solving a hard puzzle, of learning something new, of helping someone, to remember the feeling without the specifics is to be hungry to feel it again.  When we go to the Relive Box, let us try to not to get caught up with the past event in our own life.  The event is dead.  The feeling, though, is still alive, and can actually motivate us in the present.

We won’t be able to do this every time.  Still, for every nine times we look at a past glory and think, “Why can’t I have that again?” if we can once think, “How can I feel that way again?” we’ll be making some baby steps towards progress.  Example:  When I painted that pear, I felt accomplished.  What can I do today to feel accomplished?”  It’s a challenge, not a fallback.

Now stop Reliving all alone in a dark room you perve.  Go out and live!




Ultimate Experience Travel

We’ve been quiet for some time now, but needed to end this abstinence when shown this excellent article on the rising popularity of extreme travel.

Of course it was only a matter of time before Specialness spread to take over not only our daily lives, but our leisure life as well.  After all, if you can’t play Jai-alai in a zero-gravity stadium on one of Jupiter’s moons, what the heck is the point of traveling?

Mr. Romney’s very thin veil

Mr. Romney's very thin veil

a Not-that-Special moment for the campaign…

The moment you take the adult side of things–ugh.

When we get down to it, we have to face the fact that much of the realization that we’re not that special coincides with the

Puck.   The ultimate child–read Special Person.  By Jecca Koch.

realization that we’re not kids anymore.  This can happen at any age, and can happen multiple times, but this morning it hit me particularly hard.

The truth is that kids are Special.  They are this way because they think they’re special–they don’t realize that the world is made up of not millions, but billions of people, with problems, challenges, triumphs, intelligence, accomplishment, that is on an exponentially greater scale than their own.  And this is actually something we love about kids.  They live like they own the world, as they should.  Certain exceptions apply: Anne Frank, Steve Jobs, and this kid.  These and others like them not only thought they were special–they were actually that special).

This morning I was listening to Z100 in the morning.  If you’ve never done this, good for you.  If you have, you might know of something called getting “phone tapped,” which in Z100 speak means getting set up to be crank-called by the station.  Here’s an example of one in which a high school senior, Ashley, gets Danielle from the station to pose as a school administrator, call Ashley’s mom, and report that Ashley won’t be graduating.  Trust me; this one, as painful as it is to listen to, is one of the funny ones.

This morning, however, I had my…there’s no other way to put it…adult moment.  Some kid got Danielle (I believe) to call the kid’s dad and pretend to be a girlfriend with whom he’d just crashed the dad’s car on the highway.  [Note how even my language, “Some kid…” reveals my old-man bias]  The father listens in horror as “Monica” tells him how she was fooling around with his son, which led to his son getting into an accident somewhere on ’95, that no one’s hurt but the car is totaled.  She then she starts singing along to the radio.  I tried to find parts, any parts, funny.  I felt a little twitch up in my mouth when Monica started shushing the Dad, who was swearing at her, so she could hear the song that was playing.  In some sick way that was, yes, comedy.  But I had to accept a fact.  Not a single shred of my personality identified with this kid, or this station, or this type of humor.  All I could do was think about the Dad and what he was going through, how his son could put him through that kind of heartache just for a radio prank.

And many of my readers will agree with me, which is as it should be.  But I don’t wholly agree with myself.  We can feel superior as adults for having empathy, compassion, common sense, decency, whatever Jeffersonian term of our choosing (who was more adult than the Founding Fathers?).  But we’re also losing something when we cross this threshold.  We lose the feeling that we’re the most important people in the world, that the world is placed here for us to enjoy, to love, to twist and mangle and then put back together.  We lose our Puck and take on Oberon, and while that is natural and good, it is also, in another real sense extremely upsetting and sad.  A door is closing behind us and we can never, ever go back to the room we left.  It’s aroom where we were the center of it all, where laughter ruled, where a fall night could mean a meal up in a tree with a neighborhood friend, or a summer could mean dirt, sun and friends, instead of work, e-reservations, childcare, self-improvement, and all the great things that come with being an adult.  It’s going, going, gone, and we have to deal with that.  But we can still shout to the rooftops that we’re not happy about it!

I’m wondering if any FOOS (Fellow Occupiers Of Special land) would like to share a moment when they felt utterly, hopelessly, bitter-sweetly but undeniably…adult.

A short film named for us!

still from "Nothing Special"

Presenting my son Jesus

Rarely has an artist captured the pain of “Specialness” so eloquently as does Helena Brooks in her Cannes-featured short film, “Nothing Special.”  In it, Billy’s mother literally believes him to be Jesus.

FOOS (Fellow Occupiers of SpecialLand), like Woody Allen is to neurotic narcissism, and Spielberg is to stories about lost children meeting aliens and/or robots, so Brooks is the modern-day chronicler of Specialness.

This film is for us! (and the title’s not too shabby)

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn

We have to give a big shout out to our friends at OTBKB.  Being aware that “Specialness” is a syndrome that affects Brooklynites at a particularly high level, they featured us last week and helped spread the gospel of mediocrity.


The newest from the author of “Prospect Park West,” noted on OTBKB

OTBKB is a blog that covers “hyper-local” Brooklyn–the arts, politics, urban planning, parenting and on-the-spot news, edited with pizazz by Louise Crawford.  While its focus is the local, there are pieces that take on the broader world too; for example, this excellent write up of Reverend Daniel Meeter’s new ebook “Why Be a Christian (If No One Goes to Hell?).  I first met Rev. Meeter during the heady Howard Dean campaign days.  He talks about religion in terms of compassion, mutual respect, and the increase of civil/human rights.  Imagine that Mr. Ralph Reed!

We strongly recommend a trip to this great and diverse blog.  Then, once you’ve learned about all the amazing, cultural, active things going on in Brooklyn, and you feel completely overwhelmed that you should’ve created/planned/or at least attended them–hence decide to crawl back into bed, come back and see us!

Getting Fired from Johnny Rockets

You…are firing me??

Not everyone can say they’ve been “let go” from Johnny Rockets.

Your Nothing Special editor was in the Summer between his Sophomore and Junior years of college.  I was working as an intern/indentured servant while living at home in Maryland and needed some actual money to do anything.  They hired me at Johnny Rockets, Bethesda, which you may remember for its art-deco diner architecture and pull-out straw containers.  My managers were 1) Dawn, maternal and tender, 2) Cora, filled with utmost loathing for my guts.
It’s not exactly clear what set her off.  She would steal my tables.  She would glare at me.  One time, while I was mixing a malted, she yelled from the back room, “Daniel!”  I turned around to reply “What?”  There was silence in the restaurant.  Cora beckoned.

“First of all, don’t you EVER respond ‘what’ when I call your name!”

“What should I say?  I don’t understand.”

(Cora is off to take a table)

Smile of Death

In addition to having some problems at home, Cora may have had other reasons to resent the new employee.  I was sometimes slow.  I was headed back to college (Yale:() in the Fall.  Worst of all, I didn’t do every requirement of the Johnny Rockets handbook.  I didn’t like to pour the ketchup smiley face, figuring as a client I’d rather pour my own ketchup.  I didn’t like to automatically lift the circular straw dispenser for customers either.  If they wanted a straw, they’d take it.  I didn’t always have my white paper hat on straight.  I did, for the record, willingly agree to sing the select songs when they were played on the jukebox, and all in all I was not the worst waiter in the world (though my own mother and brother were kept waiting for a LONG time when dining and have never forgotten).
One day, about a month and a half after starting the job, I came into the back hallway to see that my name was not on the schedule for the next week.  Dawn was on duty.  I went to her matter-of-factly.

“Excuse me, Dawn? There must be some mistake.  I am available to work next week.”

“Daniel.  Why don’t you come into my office.”

And the tears started.  Just faintly at first–the nose twitch.  Then unhideable.  Dawn was very nice about it.  She said it was predominantly that I was the most recent hire. But there was no way to really soften the blow.  For a Special person, there’s only one thing worse than being fired.  It’s being fired from Johnny Rockets.

This is not “I lost my job at J.P. Morgan during the financial downturn,” or “I got busted because of an accounting scheme I came up with as CFO but really I’m pretty smart to have even been able to even understand what it is I did.”  This is not being let go from a school because of Mayor Bloomberg’s budget cuts or getting beaten out for a medical residency at Mass General.  This is being let go from a burger joint where they pour ketchup smiley faces.

As a small final remark, you’ll notice that Johnny Rockets Bethesda no longer exists, whereas Barnes and Noble, Bethesda, which did not fire Daniel but which he left on his own volition, is still going strong.  My dad has always said this is karma.  I don’t know if firing me was the sole reason Johnny Rockets Bethesda’s had to fold, but let’s just say it didn’t help.  As for Cora, wherever she may be, I thank her for teaching me the lesson that sometimes people dislike you for no clear identifiable reason.  And also that you’re not that special.

I invite my Fellow Occupiers of SpecialLand (FOOS) to use this sacred space and share with us any experiences you’ve had of being fired from a place you never thought you’d want to work in the first place.  Let the healing begin.

Next week in Nothing Special:  Wanting at some point in your life to have an email with disclosure/privacy warnings at the bottom.

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