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!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

'Scuse Me While I Bestride The Earth Like a Colossus

Today's bus ride was obviously pretty productive (three new poems!), but I actually got into work early enough that I still have about twenty minutes to chat. Hi, everyone! How's things?

I want to apologize a trifle for failing to record my thoughts hese last few days. It hasn't just been my lack of Internet at home (though I still don't have any). I met a whole bunch of very cool people at a Media Bistro Freelancers-Mingling party a week ago, and after handing out my web address to a bunch of strangers, I felt a certain pressure to make the site temporarily professional---no chattering about my life; just pure light verse and cartoons. But it turns out that that's no fun, and I miss the commentary of my friends. So to hell with that noise. I'm back, and I'm feeling ebullient!

So let me mention that I went to The Moth---that storytelling slamfest I mentioned earlier---and was actually selected to perform. The way it works is, everyone puts their name into a hat, and they choose the first ten, and you go up and you've got five minutes to tell your story based on the night's theme. The theme on Monday was "Parties," and I told the story about how, after my 30th birthday party (where, among other things, I held a vote and shaved my head at midnight), a friend handed me a videotape he'd made ... and I suddenly saw what I looked like for the first time when I'm just socializing. It was horrifying. I couldn't dress myself, I acted inappropriately (People, don't let me dance!), and you could smell the Dungeons and Dragons coming off me in waves. And at that point (inserting story arc) I decided to change and I've never looked back. I bowed---and took off my hat, exposing my still-bald head. Point made! Cheers. Applause.

What was surprising is, first, the competition was very very good. I knew that from the moment the second woman came on---the first Gabrielle I met that evening---and listened to her talk about her career as a bootlegger-hostess for alterna-parties of thousands including drag queens and burlesque performers. She had the wild characters, the dark past, the vivid description; I knew it was gonna be tough. The second surprise was that I walked on, on my very first night just before the halfway intermission, and immediately became the guy to beat. For the first four performers, the average score hovered around 8.1-8.3. My average score was 9.0 out of 10! Afterward, people shook my hand and complimented me. At least one editor asked if I had a manuscript. And---possibly best of all---the hostess came back on afterward and said, "Wow! That guy was so manly!" I've been riding that compliment for dozens of hours now, moseying through the city, arms half-poised in the manner of bodybuilders who literally can't lower them any further, and I've been taking up lots of room just in case an emergency comes where I suddenly need to swing my massive man-organ. Manly! That's me, apparently! Someone said it in public!

Then, right after intermission, I got crushed. The very next two guys were simply fucking amazing---one in particular, who I think should have won, had a story about how he got over a heartbreak while on vacation in Ireland by lying and claiming that he and his female co-traveler had just decided to get married on the boat they were on. He did it just to get free consolation drinks from the soccer team he was talking to, but they insisted on an impromptu party. The story had everything: humor, clarity, efficiency, the unexpected, and a heartwarming story arc that was just weird enough to avoid being cloying. I wish I could remember his name, and I hope he's somewhere else next time.

But it certainly confirmed one thing for me: these are totally my people. Afterward I walked to the A station leading one of my fellow storytellers---a legally blind septagenarian fellow named Marvin---and as we talked about the history of Manhattan, his career as an editor and a tour guide, and the importance of being in the right place, I realized that this kind of bonding had never happened to me when I was doing stand-up. But I'd experienced similar instant camaraderie the last time I went to such a storytelling event. So although I'd admittedly had a greedy Hollywood dream of being The Guy Who Comes From Nowhere To Win The Slam On The First Try, I walked out with something almost as good: the assurance that I'd found a niche.

And, of course, official manliness.

[LATER:] I almost forgot: one of the women who showed up that night---and who I remembered giving an amazing story at the last event---talked with me outside at intermission, and while we stood in a circle of her friends, she said, "You remind me a lot of Tyler Fyre. Doesn't he seem like Tyler?"

And I said, "You must be kidding. You know Tyler Fyre?" Because, if you don't recall, I worked with Tyler Fyre---a sword swallower/flame eater from Coney Island---when he came through Tallahassee as the emcee of the Fluffgirls Burlesque Show. At the time, they needed a stagehand, and so I wound up collecting all the girls' castoff bras and panties and boas and spangles, and returning them to the back room. I'll spare you the full story (though it's in my book and I've posted it here before), but at one point I said, "I completely envy your life. Living in New York, working alternative entertainment at Coney Island..." And Tyler looked at me and said, "It's nothing you couldn't do. Hell, I'm from Tennessee." I remember at the time of my graduation thinking that I had to decide if I was going to try Los Angeles or New York. I settled on New York because I thought it might be a little cheaper (no car) and---more to the point---smaller and more manageable. Turns out I was right on this one. I've been here six months, and already I know a woman who knows a guy I know. I love this homey little island.


Anonymous Gabrielle said...

Hi there -
It's Gabrielle and I was outside when Carmen Mofongo compared you to Tyler Fyre. Yes, you are surrounded by a pretty good crew. It's a testament to your good taste that you found these folks that quickly. I was pretty terrified at The Moth and blacked out for most of it. I just remember saying, "mongoose" and "Everclear". While the MC declared you manly, she just found me to be "dark" and asked if I listen to Marilyn Manson. So, naturally I worried about what I'd said. If she thought my pinstripe jacket was goth, we're all in trouble. Meanwhile, it is true that you are manly, especially when concerned with aesthetics. Most guys wouldn't dare and you know that.

You might know of these people and places, but if for some reason you haven't checked them out, I threw some links at the bottom of this post. The Bowery Poetry Club has some fun nights. I love the O'Debra Twins. Bad Ass Burlesque is my favorite Burlesque monthly (next: Aug 19th). Check out Faceboy's Open Mic and Reverend Jen's too. Mo Pitkins has a great bingo night and The Mangina is their bartender.

Here are some links:

@ the Bowery Poetry Club
308 Bowery @ Bleeker, NYC

See you soon!


8/02/2006 5:26 PM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

Thanks for all the links! I think between you and its constant mentions in a.m New York, I'm going to go to Mo Pitkin's the second I get my next paycheck.

8/08/2006 1:40 PM  

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