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!

Monday, November 27, 2006

My Unusually Eventful Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving I had sort of planned to eat with Sherry Weaver of SpeakEasy Stories, who, as an old-school hippie type, has a standard open table at her place in Brooklyn: Come one, come all! Unfortunately, I didn't think about it until the day before, and then realized I had no real way to contact her except through her website, which I imagined she probably wouldn't be checking, what with the turkey and the guests and such.

I had also planned to go to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but I went down two hours early (7 a.m.) to Columbus Circle, and discovered that the weather was horrifying: hard pelting rain, umbrella-bending winds, and the worst chill of the season. (Note to self: buy gloves and scarf!) The parade starts at nine and goes to noon, and after only a few minutes, I thought, "three hours of this? Not worth it?" So I plan to just stay here another year and hope for better weather next time. (Not as silly as it sounds; Friday was gorgeous!)

So I resigned myself to spending Thanksgiving eating turkey alone at a local restaurant, which is the way I've celebrated Thanksgiving for most of the past seven years. (Two of those years, I recall, whole groups of us grad students got together. It was still at a restaurant, though.) I've never actually paid that much attention to holidays, and tend to think of them as "days where I don't have to work and can get some real writing done!" So eating at a restaurant wasn't actually a depressant like you'd think.

But along about 4 p.m., my roommate knocked on my door and reminded me that he was meeting a bunch of people he knew down in Hell's Kitchen, and I was welcome to come along. I said no. He insisted. I demurred. He cajoled. The problem was, these folks were all friends of his from AA, and I couldn't help but think that I, with my bar-hopping ways, might not be entirely welcome among them. Also, although my roomie stressed that there'd be women there, I thought, "Even if we hit it off, how would dating even be possible?" As I understand it, you get a plant your first year, and if you keep it alive, you're allowed a pet for a year, and if the pet's okay after a year, THEN you're finally allowed to date. I've never been to an AA meeting, but it's hard enough meeting women under normal circumstances. How much harder is it if, in addition to being attractive, smart, funny, etc., you add the requirement of three years of sobriety? Really, what are the odds?

"You're overthinking it," said my roommate, and he was right. I went with him, on the theory that, if things got dull, I could just hop over to Rudy's (cheapest bar in Hell's Kitchen and the home of the original Drinking Liberally club) and get a little more writing in.

But, oh my goodness! What delightful people! I can't tell you their names, of course (Anonymous), but they were the coolest bunch of fun-loving folks I've had the pleasure of spending an evening with in almost a year. The hostess was a hilarious comic-book loving Pilates instructor who, especially for the evening, wore absurdly high-heeled shoes she'd bought for a pole-dancing class. Her friends included a downstairs sister whose roommate was dressed like a Cure devotee from back in the day, and a fellow AA-er who was tart-tongued, whip-smart, and mentioned she might be going on a date with a character actor's brother. A million fun stories! I didn't want to leave. Except that they were all going to a meeting at 10:30, and I figured that'd be a good enough excuse to check out Rudy's.

So I left, promising to return later if nothing prevented me, and on the way, I thought I'd call my friend Ryan, who was (I thought) probably in San Francisco, but why not call him up and wish him well?

A woman answered the phone, and said, "David? This is Kelly." Kelly is a mutual friend of ours going all the way back to high school. I hadn't seen her in years. "I've got Ryan's phone right now. We're at St. Vincent's hospital. Ryan took a fall and we're waiting to see if he's okay." Apparently, Ryan, pursuing someone's pet dog out of the apartment, fell ten feet down some stairs (no one saw it but everyone heard it), and fell unconscious. Actually, "unconscious" might not be the most accurate word. Apparently he was snoring. When the paramedics came, he knew his name, but not where he was. They piled him into the ambulance and sent him off to get a CAT scan and an X-ray for his leg.

So I raced on down to St. Vincent's. Apparently, Ryan WAS in town. Twenty years ago, he and two other Sabino High School graduates who went to Cornell all went to New York for Thanksgiving, and this year they'd arranged to do it again. They'd had a great meal, relived old moments, and had been just about to go see the new James Bond movie when Ryan fell.

I sat in the waiting room with Kelly, Alison, and Alison's husband, and we caught up. It was surprising, really, how comfortable we were with each other, given how infrequently I've met with all of them. I suppose I could add suspense here, but instead I'll just say: Ryan came out fine. Nothing wrong except a black eye. What this means, as I pointed out later, is that they could have literally left Ryan in the stairwell and waited for him to wake up, and they'd have still been able to make the movie. (Well, maybe not. Ryan's a very sound sleeper.)

In one of the books my father sent me recently, the author quotes G. K. Chesterton, who said, "The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank." I disagree (after all, when you're grateful with no one to thank, we often call that emotion "happiness"), and I'd like to express my very real gratitude to my wise and persistent roommate, to his wonderful and lovely friends, and to the strange train of circumstances that led me to spend Thanksgiving in a hospital waiting room, thankful for old friends, thankful to be available to help, and thankful---very thankful!---that Ryan's doing fine.

[LATER:] Friday was my real Thanksgiving, because my friend Susie came up from Boston and we hung out together at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She's terrific museum company, we had a great talk, and I could kick myself for not having visited Boston sooner, now that I know it's only sixty bucks away. So I'm also thankful for Susie, who I've known for almost ten years now, and who gave this Thanksgiving its only carefully planned high point. See you next payday!



Blogger Tristram Shandy said...

I’m working on a time-lapse movie of my black eye healing, and I’m trying to see if Saint Vincent’s will release the digital files for my CAT scan, in hopes of doing a volume visualization of my (not cracked) head. I’ll keep you posted.

11/29/2006 6:35 PM  

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