Sunday, August 15, 2010

Napalm Days

After I graduated from high school and went on to one of the bigger University of California campuses, my stunning good looks got me into trouble only infrequently, as the ethos of the age dictated that the very good-looking be scorned rather than celebrated; having been blessed genetically was seen as hardly less part of The Man’s plan to keep down the oppressed than having inherited a lot of money from a rich industrialist uncle who was proud of having been a house guest of the Josef Goebbels during his visit to Germany in 1937. Wanting to ball someone on the basis of his or her good looks was viewed as counter-revolutionary.

The corporate recruiters who came to campus generally eschewed (bless you!) these views. Around five weeks into the final quarter of my senior year, I decided to interview for a marketing position with Dow Chemical, which a lot of my fellow students scorned because they were the American war machine’s principal supplier of napalm. There was a very long line to see the recruiter, but I apparently looked so terrific in my suit and tie that I was whisked immediately to its head, and then, before I knew it (at least metaphorically), talking to a young woman who, as I seated myself, unbuttoned the button of her blouse just south of the last one unbuttoned, put her shoulders back and her chest out, and murmured, “I’d love to…I mean, we’d love to have you.”

When I admitted to moral qualms about the use of her company’s products in the defoliation of Viet Nam, she pouted rather in the manner of Brigitte Bardot, not yet a malodorous madwoman at that point, and pointed out that if her company weren’t manufacturing napalm, another surely would. I was also to bear in mind that the vast majority of Dow’s products were designed for unimpeachably moral applications, unless one considered immoral the extermination of the microscopic creatures that could make one’s toilet bowl smell unpleasant. She winked at me, and I accepted a job as a copywriter. My salary was twice my Pop’s.

The Ferrari I bought myself as a graduation gift served to make me only more attractive to women. It wasn’t uncommon, when I was in the middle lane of the Ventura Freeway, for instance, for female motorists to pull even with me on either side, one gesturing for me to get off with her at the next exit, the other to stop long enough in the emergency center lane to allow her to give me her phone number. On one occasion, my having transfixed fellow motorists in this way led to a 14-car pileup, which the California Highway Patrol characterized as the worst in the history of that stretch of the freeway informally adopted by David Geffen.

The state offered to opaque the Ferrari’s side windows opaque to prevent future such mishaps. The morning after I declined the offer, fearing that the car’s resale value might be reduced, I came downstairs to find that the car had been lavishly keyed (that is, scratched with keys), and it antenna snapped off. I was able to fashion a temporary antenna out of a coat hanger, but the scratched exterior was a problem far less easily resolved. On a whim, I swapped the Ferrari for a small fleet of Porsches, only to remember too late that my carport could accommodate only two at the most. I parked the other on De Longpre Avenue, right in front of our building, and it was either stolen or towed away within 48 hours.

There’s no end to the torment the extraordinarily good-looking have no recourse but to endure.

1 comment:

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