A Day in the Life: Max Falkowitz, New York Editor
Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
6 a.m.: I'm inexplicably awake, and since I know I'm not falling back asleep, I decide to check my inbox. There's an email from one of my writers that came in two hours earlier—he can't submit regular posts for me anymore because his real job is taking up too much of his time. I mourn the loss of a great writer and think about who can take up his beat.
7 a.m.: Time to take another look at a post I wrote at 1 a.m. the night before. Thank god—I sound like a crazy person. There's a famous Hemingway quote about "write drunk, edit sober." For me that mostly means "write sleepy, edit a different kind of sleepy."
7:30 a.m.: First bite of the day—a pomegranate sorbet I spun the night before. Too much sugar; needs work. I put up a little note on the freezer door for the roommates: "Pomegranate Sorbet — Eat Me!" When you develop ice cream recipes weekly and go through multiple test batches, roommates come in handy.
8:30 a.m.: I hop on the subway and get ready to commence Email Power Hour! for the rest of my commute. I'd say 80% of the important correspondence I make during the day takes place while I'm on the train in the morning. That means responding to pitches from two months ago, talking with writers about their stories, ninja-ing my way through PR emails, and dealing with office stuff. To all the writers, publicists, and generally good and decent people out there who are still waiting for a reply from me: I'm sorry. I mean it. I really want to write back to you, but until I master the basic adult skill of Dealing With Email while Dealing With Other Things, power hour is the best I can manage at the moment.
10 a.m.: Power Hour concludes a little late with me pushing out some of the Hurricane Sandy stories we've been running to other media venues and our social media accounts.
10:05 a.m.: Tea time. Coffee has a nasty habit of either not affecting me at all or transforming me into a shaking, crumbling shell of a human being, so I generally drink tea in the morning. Today I'm steeping the last of my da hong pao, a Chinese oolong that tastes a little like whiskey except that it's okay to drink it at 10 a.m. One batch of leaves generally gets re-steeped all day.
11:30 a.m.: The tea kicks in and I'm in full-on editing mode. Writers submit posts a few days before publication and stories are usually scheduled—editor talk for line edited, fact checked if need be, and programmed to publish at a specific time—the day before. Today looks like it's going to be an editing day instead of a writing day. On editing days I'm all business time at the office, planning out stories and getting ahead on my scheduling.
Writing days, when I'm hunkering down to actually write some feature story, are much more free-form, which is to say I generally spend half of my total allotted writing time jerking around on the internet while some puny lobe in the back of my brain figures out how a story should be structured. Then once I realize it's 5 p.m. and this when normal people start packing up to go home, I dash out copy in a flurry of keystrokes until something barely readable and probably too long is on the screen. Then it's back to edit sleepy mode.
Of course every day involves a little writing and a little editing—between big features, small stories, and tiny posts, I write 35 to 40 posts a month—but editing days vs. writing days determine if I'm being an order or chaos muppet for the next 12 hours.
12 p.m.: With a morning's worth of work mostly done I start thinking about lunch. I actually have leftovers from a home cooked meal, the first I've made for myself in, oh, three weeks, a nice healthy-ish mix of bulgar, roast broccoli, and tahini dressing. But I'm feeling pretty good about my whopping two hours of morning productivity and decide that sad, no-longer-crisp broccoli is for suckers and goddamn it I'm gonna roast some fresh cauliflower to finish off this bulgar.
12:15 p.m.: I have been to four markets in Chinatown now and not a single one of them sells cauliflower. 18 varieties of choy? You bet. Dried oysters? Sure. But no cauliflower. None. Oh well, that squash looks pretty nice. I'll roast that instead.
12:30 p.m.: I return to the office to find more of Jamie's Uzbek leftovers out on the counter. That plov (Uzbek rice pilaf; my favorite) looks mighty tempting, and my sad lamb-fat-less bulgar doesn't, so see ya bulgar, I'm roasting squash and eating it with plov.
This is what happens to me every time I bring leftovers, and it is why I can't have nice things.
[Note: One week later and I'm finally writing this diary two hours before deadline—today is a writing day—and the bulgar remains. I'M SORRY, BULGAR.]
1:30 p.m.: Back to editing. I plan out a project for one of our interns to work on, a round-up you'll see in a couple weeks.
2:10 p.m.: Ah yes, the lobster rolls are here. We're tasting a gluten-free lobster roll bun against its gluten-ful standard bun, so Serious Eats Lunch #2 is lobster.
2:20 p.m.: This is about the time Ed ambles up to the editorial area, and there's a 50/50 shot that he has some absurd quantity of cake or pie in tow, because it is cold outside and he is worried we are not eating enough cake and pie. Ed is a very sweet boss who is going to give us all the worst case of diabetes.
3 p.m.: My morning of productivity has slowed to a halt. Time to shake things up and edit some photos for an upcoming story. Oh wait, I have photos to edit from last spring? Hahahaha yeah those'll get edited....not today.
3:20 p.m.: Maybe some ice cream will help wake me up!
3:21 p.m.: It does not.
3:50 p.m.: I have officially left tea time and entered bitters and soda time. Look away from your screen and three feet to your left. If you were me, you'd be looking at the office bar. Now when drinks editor Maggie moved to California, we stopped getting good booze, and these days the bar is mostly flavored vodka, questionably spiced whiskey, and some acceptable tequila. But we still have plenty of good bitters, and nothing's as refreshing as bitters in plain soda water. We're fresh out of Peychaud's so today's bitter of choice is rhubarb. Seriously, try this while working. It's magic.
4:10 p.m.: More cake. Damn you, Levine!
5 p.m.: Start wrapping up some work for the day, finally working up the courage to answer the slog of emails that have built up over the past seven hours. There's a story for tomorrow that won't come in until late tonight so I make some last-minute schedule rearrangements.
6:30 p.m.: I'm out of the office early for a review meal tonight. I'm still in the process of reviewing the place so I'll keep mum on the details, but suffice it to say too much food is ordered.* I will say that it's yet another restaurant meal where I order all our food, clearly say we're sharing all our courses, and the fish still arrives in front of my date while I get the red meat. Restaurants: please stop gendering your table service and assuming I'm drinking all the whiskey, eating all the red meat, and never touching salad. This happens way too often when I eat out to be dumb luck and it's plain atavistic. You can sous vide and CVap all you want, but if you gender your service you are not a modern restaurant.
* Astute readers will note the use of the passive to absolve me of responsibility.
8 p.m.: Dinner is over but after-dinner drinks elsewhere are still on the agenda. Huh, looks like other people are just getting their night started. How nice for them. Per the above, I switch the whiskey cocktail in front of me for the gin drink I actually ordered. But it turns out a diet of rice, squash, pretzels, ice cream, cake, ice cream, cake, and three courses of too-much does not leave one very alert come nighttime.
10 p.m.: I am in bed and falling asleep to the Walking Dead, because to hell with twentysomethings going out and living the nightlife in New York City, this is the absolute best part of the day.