Someday a real rain will come

One of the most humiliating moments of my life involves Martin Scorsese. Even now, just typing his name fills me with a lingering sense of shame, the reason for which will become clear shortly.

Back in the fall of 1996, at the start of my grad school career at NYU, I ended up with a job in the Film & TV department. I was studying neither film nor television, but they needed someone to write their departmental newsletter and that was something I could handle. Except not exactly.

The problem was that the entire thing was mine. I wrote nearly all the articles (based on interviews I myself conducted) and designed the entire thing myself using PageMaker (it was 1996!), which I had to learn during a very long night in which a friend of a friend came over to my office and talked me through the whole thing.

The first issue came out sometime in October and I was rather pleased with the result. It was on this expensive shiny paper (thank you, NYU film alumni), a nice big broadsheet that folded in half. My placement of the photos seemed heroic to me.

But then came the second issue. Stressed as I was writing papers for my actual grad school classes, I left a lot of the second issue to the last minute. One of the articles was about a grad student who ended up getting a fantastic month-long internship with NYU film school’s possibly most famous alumni, Martin Scorsese.

So imagine the article, if you will. You’re writing about Martin Scorsese, so you’re going to write his name like 1,000 times, no? So wouldn’t it be a good idea just to make sure you spelled his name right? You’d think. I wrote his name with a c where an s should have been. I looked at it and I had this vague sense of uneasiness. I should probably look this up, I thought, and then I did nothing about it.

And then picture me happily walking to the print shop on, I believe, LaGuardia Place, and dropping off the disk and asking for whatever amount of copies I needed, I don’t know, a few million? And then imagine me on my way back from the print shop a few days later, the copies hot off the press, and then placing all the copies in departmental mailboxes and getting ready to mail out all the rest.

And then imagine the call I got a few hours later from the head of the department.

You see, Martin Scorsese was not only NYU film school’s possibly most famous alumni. He also gave a ton of money to the school, as evidenced by the internship and, very likely, the expensive shiny paper on which his name was misspelled 1,000 times. I had to collect all the copies of the newsletter that had gone out, fix the spelling on the original disk, and reprint them all again.

The shame I felt then was so deep it literally took me weeks to get over it. The whole thing might not sound like a big deal to you, but to me this was one of the worst sins I could possibly commit, which was simply not doing enough research.

If there’s one thing I can say with certainty about myself it’s this: I know a little bit about a whole bunch of things. I am always looking things up. Sometimes this has become a problem for me as I am often afraid to take a stand on a topic unless I am truly clear on both sides of the issue. This is not so much a fear about not knowing things. I don’t know plenty of things. But the idea that I would present something as a fact without being entirely sure of it is one of my worst fears. Maybe it does have to do with not knowing things.

Anyway, no one was all that upset with me for all those wasted pages of shiny expensive paper, but I could not get over the shame. This will never happen again, I said to myself, glancing again at the newly printed newsletters. The front-page article was about a documentary a film student had done on Joe Franklin. Suddenly I noticed a name near the bottom of the page. Martin Scorsese. He was mentioned even in this article, only one time. Except his name was spelled wrong.

I stared and stared at the final misspelled name in disbelief. It was right on the front page. Somehow he had won.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s