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!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

An Idea---and Possibly a Whole Busker--Is Born

Last night, after a fairly dispiriting day of job-hunting online---during which I learned that most local universities a. don't announce their faculty needs on their job sites, and b. when you call, they either don't have anything, or they don't know, and the person who does is out today---I went to my local bar, Jesse's, to literally drink away the tension. That's what it's come to. And I realize this is a bad thing to do on a regular basis, but honesty compels me to mention that it worked. I had great drinks (thanks, Dulci!), many laughs, and a potentially life-changing conversation with a local social worker named Norman.

After listening politely as I detailed my woes for some time, he noticed that I'd written cartoons on a napkin and, putting it together with my story of working at Hallmark, he said, "Why don't you just sell your poems on the subway?"

"I need a license,"I said. "I don't want to go to jail."

He pish-toshed with a wave. "You'll get a summons. And then you'll be able to pay for the license in a single day of work, and then you're good." He started leaning into his lecture, in an encouraging social worker's manner. "I'm serious. I work with these guys. A lot of them are addicts, and a musician can make about two hundred dollars a day. It's actually a really profitable gig."

I've been thinking about it ever since. Dress up like the eye-catching cowboy I am, write a few pages of subway-related light verse (four pages, say), make them pretty, photocopy them, and and BAM! I'm the subway Shel Silverstein, reading from my entire oeuvre (Songs from the Cubicle, Songs from the Dictionary, and maybe a Hallmark verse or two, any one of which is technically still the property of Hallmark but I'd like to see them stop me) and meanwhile hawking photocopied poems (each suitable for framing with a Shel Silverstein-style cartoon illustration) for a dollar a page, or three dollars for four pages. I may not pull in as much as a musician (who, after all, doesn't need anyone's full attention), but even seventy-five a day would make my rent in ten days.

It would be fun, it would play to my strengths (humor, charm, fearless talking to strangers), and it sure would be a more interesting way to spend the day than hunkered over a keyboad blinking back tears of frustration. I'm really, really, tempted. The only thing that has stopped me has been fear of prison. With that allayed by a professional, my last obstacle is knocked away. So today, while I take care of another secret mission (about which more later), I'll also be writing subway poems.

I mentioned this idea this morning to one of my roommates---the woman from Georgia (the country), with the most limited English---and she listened, smiled and said, optimistically, "That is not so crazy." Those words have been ringing confidently in my head ever since. "That is not so crazy." Amen, sister; amen!


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