Being awful at everything, the Complete and Total Loser has been working in a gift shop for the better part of a decade, despite his master's degree, which is in something he's no good at doing. Sometimes notable people visit the store, as it's in a building with objects worthy of perusal by those interested in beauty and culture. Such notables have included actors like John Lithgow, Willem Defoe and Demi Moore, the movie director John Landis, musicians David Byrne, Judy Carne and David Crosby, and the odd visit by his city's mayor and other political figures.
On a recent Sunday, David Brancaccio visited. The Loser, who has seen him host NOW on PBS, likes Brancaccio and waited on him four years before. This time, he approached him when he saw him in the store and greeted him, welcoming him back. He did something he seldom does to anybody: he thrust out his hand and shook Brancaccio's.
Journalism, the Loser's failed career, is the best job there is. In no other job are you paid to get away from your desk and go out to meet people and learn new things, after which you turn those experiences into short, written pieces that, if you've done them at all well, strangers will compliment you on. Journalists frequently complain about their low pay, yet they're paid a salary that one can easily live well on; an Associated Press reporter at a bureau makes in the mid 50s -- not bad for a job that requires no specialized training and is one that an honest journalist once said he'd "do for free."
In the Loser's dreams he's achieved Brancaccio's level of success. He's doing well enough that his worries are about deadlines and getting stories, not about paying his bills and retirement, but he isn't so famous that he can't go on a cultural outing with his wife and teenage daughter without an entourage or special arrangements. He works hard at his day job, but has time to write a book, in this case "Squandering Aimlessly," which is about "money and values in America."
His beats are those of a Renaissance man: politics, human rights, national security, the environment, health care and science policy and, at his level, whatever the hell else he wants to cover. He and his staff have won awards—the George Foster Peabody Award and the DuPont-Columbia Award, an Emmy for a story on an innovative way to deliver health care in Africa, and the 2009 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Coverage.
A nice life.
A meaningless aside: In nearly all of the photos the Loser found of Brancaccio, he looks gay. When you meet him, however, you don't get a whiff of that.
November 23 update: The Loser read two days ago that Brancaccio's show has been canceled. Sorry to hear that, David.