Bourbon Cowboy

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

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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, March 26, 2006

Screwed! --starring Dave in the title role

I haven't posted in a few days because right after my last post I had the worst two days I have had yet in New York. (I'm not going to suggest it's the worst day I will EVER have, of course, since there's probably a mugging out there with my name on it. But still.)

Admittedly, I've been on edge ever since my bank account dropped to about $700, which is less than my rent. But it started out okay enough. I woke up on Thursday and discovered that Turner Classic Movies, in an attempt to keep me from ever moving again, had decided to run an Akira Kurosawa mini-festival of The Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and Yojimbo. For at least an hour I forgot my entire to-do list for the day and sat up, blissfully watching Toshiro Mifune scowl his way through a flood of black-and-white travails. (And watching quite intently, because of course with a foreign film you have to watch every frame and read the lines. You can't pick it up just by listening to the dialogue.)

But then I got a long-awaited call from UPS, who said that I had a package in their office, two blocks away. Immediately I was nervous, because what was in the package was either a.) the title to my car, so I could finally sell the damn thing (and hence, make rent and give myself another month's buffer in looking for work), or b.) a message from the Florida DMV saying, "We couldn't process your temporary check, so you've got no title and you spent thirty precious dollars on useless overnight mailings." Full of trepidation, I collected myself and, saying a sad goodbye to Throne of Blood, went to take a shower.

Today the shower had no hot water at all. It wasn't the kind of thing where you turn on the hot water and you get cold. Instead I got a trickle, as if the shower was just a lukewarm water bottle for a really large hamster. I waited, gave it some time, tried again . . . still just a trickle. Fine, I thought. I'll just pick up the UPS package and decide what happens after that.

Good news! It was my actual title. Which means the that Florida DMV is less picky about my checks than is T-Mobile, since a minute later T-Mobile also texted me to tell me that they hadn't been able to process my last payment, and I still owed them $150. But I didn't care. I could finally sell my car! Of course, there was also a downside: it turns out my car is a '91 Acura Integra, not a '94, which dropped its Blue Book resale value from $2500 to $1375. But it's still enough to cover rent. So whatever.

Except I looked at the clock and realized it was 11:30. Damn! Because I'd been watching Kurosawa (and waiting for the hot water that didn't come), I'd left my car victim to the parking nazis, who demand I move my car between 11 and 12:30. Another $45 ticket. Ah well. At least I had my title now.

So I went to my car . . . and discovered it wasn't ticketed. It was missing. I called the police and was asked to leave a message. Since there was nothing else to do, I decided to take a much-needed, de-stressing shower . . . and discovered that there was now NO water coming out of either tap---or, for that matter, from any tap in the apartment. Not only could I not shower, but I had to swallow the morning's toothpaste the hard way. Two more stressful and stinky hours later, I'd still gotten no response from the police, and I called again. Again, I got an answering machine. I left a second message. Finally, I called once more around 4:00 pm---after wasting the whole day unable to leave my house and afraid to miss the potential call, though the shower eventually de-paralyzed---and got through to an actual human being who confirmed that my car hadn't been stolen. It had been towed. I'd have to travel way south to Pier 76 (at 38th street) to pay the release fee ($185 plus $20 a day if it had been stored a while), then train it back up to 207th street with the receipt and pick up the car.

In other words, it would take too long for me to do it in the time I had left. So I'd have to do it the following day, for an additional $20 storage fee.

I won't share all the details because it would actually counteract the effects of Xanax, but the upshot is that it took ALL DAY for me to finally get my car back, and the final cost was $245 I never budgeted for and could ill afford to part with.

I spent Saturday at the Stamford Crossword Tournament in Stamford Connecticut because I wanted to see all my puzzle friends, and I thought also I might be able to get a little work on the side from various puzzle editors---puzzle editing being one of the few areas in the working world where I actually know people and have actual experience and a hiring edge. What I found instead was a phalanx of editors saying, in essence, "Gosh, there's really not enough work to go around, and what there is wouldn't pay enough to help you." I seemed to be the only optimist in the whole hotel, and maintaining my perky smile became something of a strain by the time I came home last night.

It's weird, in a way. I was terrified to move to New York because I was afraid I wouldn't find a job and that I'd eventually wind up hungry and homeless. And that turns out to be exactly what's threatening to occur. The fear is really unpleasant. But I DO have my car listed on Craigslist, and I have several people e-mailing that they're interested, so I imagine I'll sell it soon. And there's something to be said about staring down this fear in person: instead of avoiding New York for fear of failure, I'm already planning a bunch of different (and possibly naive) ways to fight back: scouring the university jobs lists, camping outside various magazines and refusing to move without an assignment, etc. I've got my resume on file at three temp agencies, I've got an article under consideration at Slate, I've got a prospective agent who's promised to get back to me on my book this week, I've got three stories I'm sending to This American Life, and at my professor's recommendation, I used his name and asked the vice president of Putnam Publishing to help me out. What I don't have is any responses from anyone, and a rapidly dwindling bank account. I could really use a break right now.

Which reminds me---I'd better go down to T-Mobile and pay my phone bill. It wouldn't do if the car buyers---the only people who can help me make this month's rent---couldn't get through to me . . .

2 Comments:

Blogger Jason Rohrblogger said...

Hey, you could be broke and in TALLAHASSEE! At least you are broke and in NEW YORK. That's a whole classier level of brokeness. I'm impressed. And every writer has to have a down-and-out chapter in his best-selling memoir. Now's the time to cut off your ear, marry your cousin, or get hooked on heroin for the second act...

3/27/2006 9:00 PM  
Anonymous Jen from Chicago said...

Dave: huge telepathic hugs coming your way. Ugh, what a day.

I'm with Jason--this is material for future use.

You've got the worst out of the way now; it'll only get better from here. Hang in there!

3/29/2006 12:41 AM  

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