The Unbearable Banishment: Conference Room With a View

Monday, May 23, 2011

Conference Room With a View

The job market is steadily improving here in New York and I've been on a mad tear interviewing in an effort to shed this consultant skin and get a position that will provide my family and I with fat, juicy benefits. I have some freelance friends who would never trade-in their independence. They don't want to be beholden to The Man, man, but that ain't me. The Man has afforded me a pretty decent standard of living and I'll sign on the dotted line with blood as soon as I find a good match.

To that end, I called in sick last Tuesday (kack-kack) and interviewed at Large Orange Institution inside the elegant Helmsley Building, just outside of Grand Central Station. Originally built in 1929 by the New York Central Railroad Company and known as the New York Central Building, it was renamed in 1988 by a wretched, old gargoyle named Leona Helmsley.

I interviewed with two different Big Shots. After sufficiently charming and dispensing with Big Shot #1, and while waiting for Big Shot #2 to show up, I snapped this photo from the conference room window. This is looking north up Park Avenue. I like this perspective because everything comes to a sharp point.

The third building on the left—the one that juts out a bit—is Lever House. Directly across the street is the Seagram Building. Both are considered influential architectural milestones and if a certain JZ wants to explain why in the comments section he should feel free to do so. The building one block north of the Seagram Building with the gold glow is the Waldorf-Astoria. This is the high-rent district.

Here's the elevator I took up to my interview. It's so Olde World New York. It's red painted wood with an ornate metal façade.

At the center of the abstract design at eye level is an interlocking "NYC" in front of two intertwined serpents. (Click on this one.)

The elevators have an over-the-top Louis XIV interior with a sky mural on the ceiling. It's flea market elegant.

The interviews went SO well, and my skill set is so suited to their needs, that before the day was over I got a call from the headhunter telling me they're interested. It would, however, be a three-month contract-to-hire. Nobody hires directly on staff anymore! Here we go again.

# # #

Boy, did I need a stiff drink after all that. It feels strange to drink at 3:00 in the afternoon, but when ya gotta, ya gotta. And I knew just the place.

I met CB, who is a writer and keeps very irregular hours, and Bob, who's visiting from London, at the elegant Campbell Apartment inside Grand Central Station. It's a little known, stately, watering hole tucked into the corner that looks out onto Vanderbilt Avenue. The drinks aren't cheap but it's an authentic New York place to have a libation.

The room was once the office of American financier John W. Campbell, who served on the New York Central's Board of Directors. It was never actually an apartment.

Light streams in and bathes the dark wood room with midday sun. There's balcony seating (from where I took these shots) where you can observe all the busy little creatures chasing out their destinies.



Blogger The Honourable Husband said...

The Campbell apartment is one of my fave NYC bars. I always order a bottle of the Fess Parker Chardonnay, or perhaps the Raymond Burr cabernet. We sometimes adjourn to the nearby Michael Jordan steakhouse, on the terrace overlooking the great hall. A true only-in-America experience for me.

May 23, 2011 at 7:29 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

THH: I hear the Michael Jordan steakhouse is a pretty excellent meal and a great experience but, for now, it's too far outside my range of affordability. Once I start this new gig, I'll pass by it every day on my way home from work. So close and, yet, so far away!

May 23, 2011 at 7:37 AM  
Blogger Sausage said...

Great shots they make me long for gotham...

May 23, 2011 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger Kono said...

Those pictures almost make me want to visit nyc.

May 23, 2011 at 8:02 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

SF: Come up anytime! We're open 24/7. Bring money.

Kono: This place isn't for everyone but you should see it at least once in your lifetime. Have you been? It's only about a six hour drive.

May 23, 2011 at 8:15 AM  
Anonymous nuttycow said...

Congratulations on the job :) Next time I'm in NYC we'll have to go visit the Campbell Apartment - looks fab!

May 23, 2011 at 8:20 AM  
Blogger LẌ said...

Keep in mind that you're giving them a test drive in the three months as well!

May 23, 2011 at 8:38 AM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

Congrats on the new contract! I hope it becomes something permanent for you. :-)

Love the photos. And one day, I will visit NYC. Will give you a dingle when that happens and we can meet up for a drink.

May 23, 2011 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Nutty: Well, it's just a contract for now but thanks. Will gladly show you where the Campbell Apartment one day.

xl: That's true. If they treat me poorly, I'll bail out when the contract expires.

Ponita: Thank you. Am trying not to get my hopes up but it looks like a pretty great gig on the surface.

May 23, 2011 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Ms Scarlet said...

Congrats, and the very best of luck with chasing your destiny.

May 23, 2011 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

Looks fun for three months but I suggest you take a packed lunch to save you from bankruptcy and alcoholism.

May 23, 2011 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Ellie said...

Jay-zee follows you???? AWESOME!!!!!

May 23, 2011 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Scarlet: In my case it seems more like destiny chases me.

Pat: I'm pretty far along in the game and if deamon alcohol hasn't gotten me by now, I doubt it eve will.

Ellie: Not THAT JZ. This one isn't married to anyone famous and, to my knowledge, doesn't have a billion dollars.

May 23, 2011 at 3:47 PM  
Blogger mjp said...

This is the high-rent district.

As opposed to the cheap and reasonable rents everywhere else in Manhattan, I take it.


May 23, 2011 at 4:17 PM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

you are taking nursemyra and i there. i remember we tried to visit when i was there in december but some rich bastards had catered the joint for the evening...

May 23, 2011 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

mjp: An excellent point, but some neighborhoods are shockingly more expensive than others.

daisy: What a memory you have! 100% correct. We couldn't get in because of an office Christmas party. But I like Celsius, where we wound up, very much. Who'd have thought we could drink outside in December?!

May 23, 2011 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger JZ said...

It's an honor to post a comment, let alone be mentioned in a post.

Good luck with the job prospect. Hopefully, they'll give you a spot to view either Lever House or the Seagram Building. Modernism for others is like Bob Dylan for me: I find his music incessant, but I can appreciate why he is vital to our musical heritage. ;)

May 23, 2011 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger tennysoneehemingway said...

I love your shots. You need to set up your own postcard company.

May 24, 2011 at 12:37 AM  
Anonymous dinahmow said...

Good luck and congrats.
(Noodle Pudding was nice, too, and more affordable!)

May 24, 2011 at 1:40 AM  
Blogger Eryl said...

Bloody well done. I don't know anything about employment law over that way but here whether your contract is permanent or not, they can just dump you in the first year anyway.

Enjoy your new position: will you be in that building, traveling in that lift everyday?

May 24, 2011 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

JZ: I don't know what makes those two structures so special. They look like the buildings that surround them. What did they innovate?

Hem: Thanks, but one unpaid hobby is enough.

Dinah: Noodle Pudding has nice meals. All you can get at the Campbell Apartment is liquor. Sometimes that's all I want.

Eryl: There is always a 90 day trial period whereby they can let you go for any reason. And, yes, that will be my new place of business.

May 24, 2011 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger JZ said...

Well, since you keep poking me:

Lever House was THE FIRST curtainwall building in all of New York City. All those buildings around it that it apparently looks like actually followed its lead. At the time of its construction, the opening of the ground floor to a public courtyard was considered innovative and still hosts a regular parade of public art projects to be enjoyed by those in NYC. The design principals that yielded its form were laid down by Mies Van Der Rohe (who emigrated to Chicago from Germany in the late 30's), who's Seagram Tower would be built 6 years later across the street.

At the time, the Seagram Building was the most expensive tower ever constructed due to is copious use of bronze, travertine and other marble. Over simplifying MvdR's impact (your readers can do their own Wiki-ing or Google-ing), he pioneered a minimalist aesthetic in which the building's method of construction was expressed in the exquisitely crafted details...not cheap details, either. He took welding and bolting steel to a whole other level....

If you put it in context with painting, these are the Pollocks, Rothko's or Reinhardt's of the day....when NYC was the epicenter of the international art scene after it shifted from Paris following the artistic diaspora caused by WWII.

I could go on and on....not because I worship these buildings, but because I respect them for their historic context. They are very much an expression of the American ideology about space, economy and a vision of the future of architecture that we have since (d)evolved from. They are not perfect by any means, but no building is. They embody a way of thinking about building and living that was radically new...utilizing new technologies that were available due to the inventions of the industrial era. They represent a time in which the American sensibility overall was looking forward more than backward, which I do believe we have lost culturally.

FYI: between the United Nations Complex, the Seagram Building and the Guggenheim, you have three representations of Modernism delivered by the three most vital figures of Modern Architecture in the 20th Century: Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. Chicago can boast a plethora of FLlW and LMvdR... and there may be a city in Europe that is home to buildings by Le Corbusier and LMvdR....but I don't believe there is another city with all three.

Oh, see what you gone and done made me do?.....

May 24, 2011 at 11:26 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

I loved this post.
And the photos!

Walking through Grand Central Station and up Park Ave to these two buildings with my architect-husband was quite an experience a few years ago. Buildings actually move him to tears, and I see so much more through his eyes.

Great comment, JZ

May 25, 2011 at 12:37 AM  
Anonymous looby said...

What a great advertising company for New York you and JZ could set up. "Quirky Insider Strolls Round Hidden New York" or something. It's very interesting that that kind of hard edge block like Modernist architecture also paid great attention to ornate almost Baroque detail.

And what a lovely bar - even though according to one site I've just read it's very easy to spend 15 dollars (WHAT?!) on a drink.

May 25, 2011 at 4:51 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

JZ: My favorite comment EVER. A commiserative plaque and a check is on the way. Thanks!

Lori: It always pays to have an expert in tow. When visiting an art museum, I always try to drag an artist friend along.

looby: Believe me, if I could fashion this into a money-making venture, I'd do it in a second. And I can testify to the expensive drinks. The tab for six drinks was an astonishing $80! And that's BEFORE tip!

May 25, 2011 at 6:12 AM  
Blogger savannah said...

wow! first, i'm keeping good thoughts for you and you quest! and secondly, thank you for giving me a place to take the MITM to that i know he's never, never, ever been to in NYC! and also, a hat tip to jz for the architectural history lessons! by the by, drinks are on us BECAUSE the MITM said he could only explain that music review to you in person and not in text! xoxoxoxox

May 25, 2011 at 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Sid said...

The elevator doors are very elaborate. I'm not entirely sure I like them.

May 30, 2011 at 4:20 AM  

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