Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

My Photo
Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Panic at 30,000 Feet

I just got back from an initial trip to New York, since I figured I should fly in and get an apartment so I'd know how much room I had to pack for. There are a few stories from the naked city I thought I'd share, and we start with a tale of panic.

I had just gotten to the airport in Jacksonville when I felt an overwhelming terror overtake me. In many ways it felt like the standard panic attack that ex-fundies like myself are often heir to: weakness in the legs, tense chest and throat, ultrathumpety heart. But conventional panic attacks rarely last more than a few minutes. This was a longer, more sustained anxiety, like the kind I had the one time I smoked pot and rattled myself to pieces for the next four hours. I found myself sitting outside the gate at Jacksonville International feeling utterly exhausted, yet utterly restless. I couldn’t sleep, felt no urge to eat, and couldn’t seem to focus on anything I tried to read. All I could do was worry, and the worrying was of the worst possible type: the helpless sort of “what if a comet hits the earth and we all die” sort of worry you can do nothing about. Clearly my chief fear was of the future. What the hell did I think I was doing, actually planning an honest-to-God move to New York City? Once I started on this trip, there was no going back. I started wondering how much of most people’s fear of the future isn’t really a form of commitment-phobia.

At any rate, I soldiered on, but I was miserable the entire time. After a three-hour car trip, I shambled through the gate, waited for my flight, and couldn’t read, eat, or concentrate. They called at the gate, I made my way through in a kind of dreadful dream, and sat in the chair and didn’t move and couldn’t concentrate. We took off, and I got even more nervous, then once we leveled off I quieted to earlier level of nervousness. It was like that for eight hours. I don’t know if it was the lack of food, the exhaustion from the road, or some combination of the two coupled with my natural hypochondriac tendencies, but I felt this terror as an actual physical ache throughout my entire body, and it foiled my every attempt to close my eyes and get comfortable.

And then a funny thing happened. The moment I landed in Manhattan, I felt excited instead. When I got off the Q33 bus and onto the subway that would take me to my friend Ryan’s place, I felt my body practically throbbing with energy. I finally made it to Ryan’s apartment in Chelsea and, after we hugged and I threw down my luggage, I said, “What do you want to do?” I should have been dead on my feet, but I couldn’t sit still. And then, as we walked to a nearby eatery, I caught myself looking around me at the thoroughly normal people on all sides and I thought, “I bet I’m smarter and more talented than that guy, and he’s obviously got a job here.” I stood in line for a drink and thought, “That woman in front of me is pretty, but I bet she doesn’t have a Ph.D. or a publication record that includes the Atlantic Monthly.” And there were actual typos in the menu, and at that point I relaxed and said, “Obviously, this town still has room for one more competent writer.”

Then I came back to Ryan’s place and slept for about fourteen hours. But I was no longer scared. I feel silly claiming to have discovered something so banal, but just as Hallmark taught me the painful truth that money can’t buy happiness, so this apartment-shopping trip had already taught me another valuable lesson: the fear is always worse than the reality. To put it another way, if you find you are a nervous, high-strung person, the good news is: you’re wrong most of the time. Practically everything I discovered about New York over the next few days assuaged all my fears and made this overstuffed island feel downright conquerable.


Post a Comment

<< Home