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, May 23, 2006

Who Needs an iPod Much of the Time?

In my commute, I take the A train from 181st Street to 42nd Street. Then I take the S shuttle across 42nd street to Grand Central Terminal. Then at Grand Central I hop the 6 train down Park Avenue South and get off at the first stop. In all, it takes about forty minutes—thirty of it just on the A.

I mention this because, after doing it for a week, I’m finding one real advantage of going through Grand Central every morning: that’s where the buskers work. In New York, if you want to be a street performer, you have to get a license, and most of the performers have signs that seem to be provided by the MTA. And there’s so much variety that I’ve decided to read the musicians as omens: a good musician means good things. A bad one means it’ll be that kind of day.

So for example, two days ago, just outside the S train, I passed two old black men—one on fiddle, one on accordion—who were playing bluegrass. Their sign proclaimed them The Ebony Hillbillies. That was a good day. The next day I was serenaded on my way to the 6 by a four-person band calling themselves Spirit of Nepal World Music Quartet. Two of them were playing pan pipes. That was bad.

Today, after hearing a middle aged black woman sing, without accompaniment, a haunting rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, I walked down a hall and got to hear another woman—white, fortysomething—sitting in a chair with an accompanying tape player and playing classical music on the saw. (I didn’t recognize the piece, but I think it was Bach’s Third Etude For Violin and Carpentry Tools. Its first performance brought down the house. Thank you! I’ll be here all week!) On the way home, she’d been replaced by a five-piece Dixieland jazz band complete with tuba. Tuba! Between this and the Chinese guy who always plays some Tibetan instrument I don’t know the name of, I think in the past few weeks I’ve seen every musical instrument there is.

Well, except for the bagpipes. That would be a pretty bad day.


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