In my service to the Aries Nordic Witch, a few months after our first separation, and in spite of the scandalously treacherous manner in which she separated both herself and my peers from me, she called me to her side from across the Hudson River. Of course, when a witch summons you by phone, it is a nostalgic gesture to your humanity, because she has already captured a very necessary part of your being and holds it ransom in a knick-knack.
She was the Director of Sales and reported straight to the President in our first action-packed season (let’s call that first company “GGG”), now she was Vice President of Business Relations for GGG’s direct competitor, “FFF”. Any non-competition clause required upon her termination was, evidently, powerless against her. She resurfaced on the West Side of Manhattan, “doing the city thing” as she says, far from the shaded vales northwest of The City where GGG’s stealth complex hid. I was thrilled when the phone rang in my office. She giddily invited me to an interview (the rite of initiation amongst the bureaucratic magi), her voice smiling.
Since she and her benefactors separated from GGG, I left was in limbo there, bobbing aimlessly upon that slow gyre called “regime change” – with no leeward organization to shelter me in moments of high tension, I was now subject to the karmic retribution of all who had previously lived under her wrath. She would promise a 40% increase in pay, full benefits, sign-on bonus, pre-vested options, vacation carryover… Two weeks later, I was North American Business Relationship Analyst (trumpets!) in a bedroom-sized office on the West Side. (There would be a price to pay on my part for this remarkable call back, but I won’t detail that here and now).
My new building had been in the ownership of criss-crossing Dutch interests since back when the West Side actually had working docks exporting something other than sewage. A vast Industrial Age complex retro-built to house modern labs and offices, however incomplete, I took to wandering its vast hidden voids in off-times. There were chambers enclosed by obtuse angles behind unlocked doors, a flick of the key card opening to dusty neglect, the odd garbage container or expelled credenza, and unbearably dim silence. The brass-lined street entrance opened to a small, almost condo-like foyer with two elevators leading up to the place’s hub, The Atrium, which was more like a slightly overgrown plaza of some Mayan temple ruins, before discovery by robbers, retaining sharp gilded finishes and a canopy-bright atrium, almost livably home-like, with a long, thin pool of rushing water brushing against rectangular stones at one end and leather-lined sitting areas in another.
The corridors branching off from the floors, stairs, and balconies of this central atrium joined the various clusters of working groups with uncanny stretches and unexpected turns. Exploring, you would follow a hallway spaced unpredictably with office doors on either side, with mild lighting and quiet faces working quietly within, friendly if not engaging, only to turn a corner and come up to a glass door to a stairwell that seemed part of another building entirely, as if you were instantly removed the place, across town even, with, perhaps, an exposed concrete step-up to true-up two different phases of expansion, the masonry of the true-up not unlike an exposed stratum in an archaeological dig – “Here is where civilization vanished, and reappeared three centuries later.”
Looking at the complex from the outside, it appeared as a modern, black-glass-and-steel-cloaked office building of considerably low height (in comparable NYC terms) and considerably long length of about half a city block. The glass and steel were not functional parts, but rather an edifice or skin – completely opaque from the outside and ensuring that not too much light reached within. Neptune rules the Beauty industry after all.
An interesting business thing that happened periodically was my brief contact with a lauded fragrance designer, which lasted about six months, in which I, as one of only a few young men in the entire building whose time wasn’t ridiculously expensive, this being both the perfumery center and corporate HQ, was selected to be sprayed and sniffed daily by this consultant and a parade of perfumers and evaluators, to run their nostrils from my knuckles to my armpits. Yes, this is how it’s done, a spare analyst is called (over a kindergarten-like loudspeaker no less) out to where the Ann Gottlieb’s of the world (in fact, there is only one Ann Gottlieb) “X” you with black marker, spray the smudgy ink with new submissions, and talk-talk-talk about how you (pardon, the submissions) may, say, smell “spongy” with this one, that the cinnamon comes out here but not here, is that too much oakmoss in A12, let’s see on drydown, I think we can go more lemongrass, and so forth.
You are to make sure not to eat any strong food that day, and for heaven’s sake, don’t wash off any of the submissions, because the group will call you back in the afternoon for another round of being sniffed. In fact the “Lucky” brand jeans issued their first fragrance modeled upon my lucky hide. Nordic Witch made sure that she was advised ahead of my being needed, and that no one was to contact me directly without her leave – of course, that was what they call “the set-up”. I can and do not exaggerate. The woman thought she was in utter control.
Is she what one would call a “bad boss”? I wonder sometimes…
Image: Tamara De Lempicka
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