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 25, 2006

Life, or Something Approaching It Asymptotically

I woke up this morning (cue blues riff: ba-NA-na-NUNH), and had my first experiment in turkey and cheese in a long time. I normally avoid cheese because I’m lactose intolerant. But the other day I saw a new product: LACTOSE-FREE cheddar! Gosh, I thought. That would be nice. I miss cheddar something fierce. When I discovered I was lactose-intolerant, I was most upset over the loss of cheese; more so even than ice cream. In fact, if I weren’t lactose intolerant, at this point in my life, having become a scotch snob, I think I’d also be a cheese snob, snarfing up every hard or stinky or weirdly-speckled variant on offer. But I’ve never even had something as common as Havarti, and possibly I never will.

Anyway, today I took a gamble on lactose-free “cheddar”—quotes mine. And I use the quotes because at no point does this product ever refer to itself as “cheese.” In fact, they don’t actually come down in favor of anything concrete. According to various parts of the package, these are “cheddar-flavored” “slices” “made with casein.” Fine! I want to ask. But slices of what? (The first ingredient listed is "water.")

I put two "slices" on my “toast,” which was also experimental, because it’s an organic oat bread that—perhaps you should sit for this—doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup. I bought it not for health reasons, but for reasons of sanity. Every so often I’ll have a hypochondriac panic attack where I’ll be convinced, against all the evidence, that I’ve got signs of diabetes, and I like to be able to tell my brain, “Dude, you’ve been eating sugar-free bread, for chrissakes! Go to sleep already!” Before, in Tallahassee, when I wanted to avoid high fructose corn syrup, the best I could usually do was settle for some fancy double-wrapped gourmet bread that had high fructose corn syrup as the sixth ingredient instead of the third. None at all? What would that taste like? I admit I was worried. I grew up with a mom who was so obsessed with healthy eating that she drove us all away from health food, one force-fed mulch-flavored bran muffin at a time.

So I’m happy to report that the whole combo tasted just fine. And while I was standing in the kitchen looking down at my packages, I noticed that even the turkey I was eating was fat-free. So every ingredient of my sandwich was, as it were, indirect. Bread, but without the sugar. Cheese, but without the lactose. Turkey, but without the fat. This wasn’t a turkey and cheese sandwich. It was an approximation of one.

Then I went back to my room and realized that I don’t so much have a bedroom as an approximation of one. My bed sits on the floor. Why? Because in the middle of assembling it with my handy screwdriver, the instructions showed me four legs and told me to go get a hammer. I don’t have a hammer. Worse, I don’t even have a shoe. All I wear are boots, and they’re too clumsy to use to bang anything in. (I tried.) I thought of wandering outside in search of a brick, but finally I thought, “Hell with it. I’ll sleep that much closer to the floor and nothing will ever roll under the bed.” The legs are still around somewhere, though, since I don’t like cutting off my options.

The "chair" I’m sitting in is an approximation as well, because when I was assembling it, I couldn’t figure out how to put on the back part. Nothing seemed to attach properly, and maybe there was a piece missing. So should I drive all the way back to New Jersey’s Ikea ($6 toll at the bridge, and I get lost every time) and ask about it, hoping they can help, or stay where I am and live with an almost-chair? I’ve been living with it ever since. And yes, the chair back is still lying in the closet next to the bed legs. After all, you never know; tomorrow I may find myself dating someone, and what if they turn out to be competent? In the meantime, though, I’ve been sitting on an almost-chair that’s just a whirling tripod mushroom. Whenever I’m tempted to lean back, I find it keeps me alert.

It keeps going, on down the line, anywhere I look at my life. I don’t have “dishes.” I have two microwaveable bowls. I could buy more, but I never entertain and the bowls have been fine for my needs. I have no silverware—I left it all in Tallahassee—but I did buy a spoon. It was the only spoon available at my local supermarket, and it’s kind of enormous, but it fits in my mouth and what more do you need? And of course, I don’t really have a job at the moment; just a freelance crossword editing gig that will pay off, I’m promised, two months from now. But I do my work in the library, so I get up every morning and shower and leave, just as if I had an actual conventional job.

I guess what I’m saying is, it turns out that in my current circumstances—waiting in the lobby of Destiny for an actual career to come along—I don’t actually have a conventional life. But I have a close enough approximation of one that it looks just fine if you squint.

P.S. This is off topic, but I’m so confident about getting that job with Dell (second interview Thursday!) that I actually took a chance today and opened my last set of disposable contact lenses. I have no backup. I’m counting on having an actual income where I can replace them in a month if I have to. Join me in my magical thinking!

2 Comments:

Blogger libertariandem said...

Dude, if you're lactose intolerant, I strongly recommend Rice Dream Pies.

4/26/2006 7:10 PM  
Blogger Tristram Shandy said...

I can loan you a hammer…

4/27/2006 1:10 AM  

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