So today I was listening to the This American Life episode where they retract their piece about Apple manufacturing, which turned out to be an unverifiable piece of “theatrical truth”, or some shit like that. And during the piece, Ira was just so unbelievably calm. So… Ira. And the following started to unfold in my brain…
I’d met her in Library School – she was a real bright-eyed young-un’ from the South Side, working her way up from a simple shelver job at the UC library. She needed an MLS to advance, and so by God she was getting one. I despised her immediately, but I’m bitter that way.
I’d never seen her so shaken – her skin was waxy in the light through the windows from outside – it was a bar, it was Boystown, and a spring rain was coming down. I gestured towards her with my martini glass, careful not to spill any of the light pink contents, and indicated her own mostly-empty glass. “You doing any better?” She looked down at her glass, drained it with one more swallow, and waved to the bartender for two more. That was why I’d agreed to meet her for drinks at 10:30pm on a Thursday- she’s buying, tonight.
She glanced my way, and nodded slightly. “A bit. The shaking is mostly done, at least.” That was true – when I showed up, she was vibrating on her stool like it was on the spin cycle. She took a drink from her fresh glass, then glanced at me out of the corner of her eye. “You know about my internship, right? At WBEZ?” I nodded – it was a plumb position, and she’d crowed about it on FaceBook for days. A paid internship in archiving? In the city? With a travel stipend?!? Of course I knew! Bitch.
“They’ve had me working on the files for This American Life. Their fact-checking archives are a mess, and I’ve been getting things straightened out. And it’s been absolutely amazing… But the staff for that show are nothing like their on-air personalities. Especially Ira… My god, he comes off as so cutely neurotic on the air, but he’s so high-strung!”
She downed her Cosmo, and motioned for another – her fourth, I was still working on #2.
“But when the Daisey thing started to hit… It turned everything up to eleven! Kind of like that @mayoremanuel thing, you know? I walked in that afternoon, it would have been about Tuesday, and he was screaming, literally screaming, in the face of the fact-checker! Spit was flying from his mouth, splattering on the guy’s glasses! There weren’t any coherent words, it was just… sound. Finally he stopped, and the fact-checker ran right out the door. Ira stomped to his desk, put some kind of pill on it, crushed it with some kind of paperweight, and snorted it right off his desk!”
That’s when I spewed a mouthful of very nicely-done Cosmo(not too much vodka, thankfully) across the bar, earning a dirty glare from the bitch behind the bar. Like he was so busy… This place was deader than Jane Byrne’s reputation.
I turned to stare at her, and she continued. “That’s when he started screaming at me, but it was words this time… “And you! GET YOUR ASS INTO THE ARCHIVES! Pull everything we have on that mothershitting Daisey story, and GET IT ON MY DESK. Peter fucking Sagal never has to deal with this shit!
“Then he slammed the door.
“It’s been like that for over two days… He had to wash down those pills, Seroquel they’re called, with almost a bottle of bourbon to calm down enough to get through the followup with Mike Daisey, and record the rest of the episode. By the end, they had to stop every couple of sentences and start a new take because he’d just start laughing hysterically, and screaming about how Colbert would never let him live this down…”
She looked directly at me, the tears on her eyes nearly invisible thanks to the shadows of the raindrops across her cheeks. “I don’t know if I can go back.”
I reached out to pat her on the hand, and the wheels in my head started to spin.