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!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

All About My Firing

I got fired today. As anyone who has talked to me over the past month or so knows, I could sort of feel it coming. I sucked at my job and kept not not-sucking. My job skills plateaued at what I knew was an unacceptable level of vacuum. And as it happens, I was already putting out feelers to do something else. But I was actually going to hold off for a month first. I guess the decision has been made for me.

So let this blogpost function as a sort of FAQ about my firing.

Q: Oh, my god, Dave! Are you all right?
A: Oddly, yes. Under any other circumstances I'd be in an utter panic, but fortunately I'm living rent-free, and that means that the worst possible pressure is off, and I actually have a teeny bit of leisure. I'll apparently be coming into some severance pay (good thing I never used my vacation!), and I'm expecting some money from Time Out New York pretty soon.

After the initial horror, I realized I wasn't going to die (and thank you, J.B., for letting me stay for free! You just saved my life and made all the difference!), I was surprised to discover that I was really happy. I'm happy even as I type this. My job was okay, but it sucks to be mediocre at work that you're horribly underpaid for anyway. I needed a break, and this comes at the perfect time.

Q: Did any other sucky things happen?
A: Oddly, yes. At the same time that I was trying to put out the bonfire my incompetence had started (and which led to the that's-the-last-straw canning decision), I also got a call from my bank about some fraudulent activity on my account. I panicked, told them to cancel my card, and ran to the bank. I have $160 to my name.

Q: Holy shit! How will you survive?
A: I'm honestly not worried. I'm good at eating rice and beans, and I do have actual money waiting to come in. And I'll be cancelling the fake charges, so that'll probably give me another two hundred or so. It'll be a thrifty weekend, and a very careful month or two thereafter, but I'll certainly get by. Good thing I'm single, though! Whew!

Oh--and I qualify for unemployment insurance, so that'll help a bit. The only problem is that because I was fired today and not yesterday, I can't apply for unemployment benefits until Monday. So for now it's just me and my $160.

Q: What are you going to look for?
A: Obviously, I'm good at teaching, and that would be a good fit for me, but the school years have already started, so I don't expect any openings there anytime soon. But I'll be getting my resumes out to the various schools for later, so I can be in their files when they need someone.

I've also thought of looking into places that generally require internships. Specifically, I'm thinking of advertising. It's pretty much the only job I can think of where my Hallmark card-writing skills are almost directly transferable. ("You've got an emotional artistic pitch to make to a very specific demographic. Go!") And it's pretty much impossible to break into without a period of internship.

And despite my recent firing, I could also be an editor again. The problems I had at Dell were almost all related to the problems associated with keeping track of reprints ("Didn't we use this untitled number puzzle in issue #32? Better check the records and look up all the relevant citations, which I hope you've been logging assiduously..."), and with puzzles in general, which are multipart productions (puzzle AND answer, and sometimes hints, all on different pages that have to refer to one another accurately, a hundred at a time, in a standard magazine) that have nothing to do with my best strengths, which are mostly grammatical and story-based. So I just need to work someplace where they actually use words and/or use all original work. So really, I could probably work just fine editing for anything BESIDES a puzzle reprint magazine.

I am, however, taking suggestions. Quiz show writer? Tour guide? Consultant about some topic I'm not aware I'm good at? I'm sure I have skills that I'm too close to to think of as marketable. Any exterior eyeballs would be much appreciated.

Q: I want to kill those assholes who fired you!
A: That's not a question. But I actually left on really good terms. They're wonderful people, and on my very first day, my future boss said, "I just worry that you're so creative that you'll find this job too boring." I said, "Don't be silly! I'm excellent at concentrating!" Now we know: no more non-creative jobs for Dave. I really want to thank everyone at Dell, though: when I got the job, I was jobless, had run through all my student load money, and was borrowing hundreds from my friends and was maybe a month away from sleeping on the street. Dell (and my friend Leslie) saved me, and now I'm in a place where I have more friends, more options, and a real shot at a future. So thanks!

Q: Any regrets?
A: A guy at work yesterday said, and I quote, "I have literally never seen anyone get fired for incompetence. The only guy who's ever been fired was incompetent AND he was sexually harrassing people. So I think you'll be okay." So I came into work today pretty sure I still had my job and anxious to do well in order to start the rehab program on a strong note. So I took work home the night before, worked on the subway, skipped lunch, all to get a major project done before my 2:45 meeting...where they fired me. Hell, if I'd known that was going to happen I could have come in a little later and wasted time talking to all the nice people I won't see anymore. But you can't have everything, and I'm glad I minimized the headache for my bosses, who really have given me every benefit of the doubt. Still, either I'm so incompetent that it's metaphorically similar to sexual harrassment, or their standards have gone up since their last firing. Gee, I hope it's the second.

Q: Is there anyone else you'd like to thank right now?
A: Absolutely. I called a bunch of my friends yesterday in a state of panic (which then calmed down in what was clearly an illusion-fed fugue state), and everyone had kind words for which I thank them. (But Faye, you guessed wrong!) Most notable, however, is my friend Tracy, who said, "Every time we talk, the only thing you ever talk about that's wrong in your life is your job. You've needed to change for a long time, and I hope you do get fired. In fact, if they don't fire you, I hope you quit. It could be the best thing that ever happened to you." That particular conversation has been staying in my head for days, and at this point I think I could put it to music. How lovely it is, when exactly what you need to hear is also the truth, and also full of hope! Thanks, thanks, thanks!

So can someone buy me a drink?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you actually manage to say "I'm excellent at concentrating!" with a straight face? Because I love you, man, but ... dude.

Anyway: sucks. Sorry to hear it.

1/10/2008 7:01 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

The booze is to the right of the stove. There's a bottle of wine in the fridge. And you can file for unemployment on-line and never even have to brave downtown Brooklyn. So start sexually harassing people already, will ya?

1/10/2008 7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hoo boy. Well at least you weren't too blindsided by it. Here's hoping it's a sign of something better around the corner.

1/10/2008 10:57 PM  
Blogger Sebastienne said...

Commiserations & sympathy & virtual drink. Silver lining. Door closes, window opens etc.! Wishing you a smooth transition and nice surprises

1/11/2008 12:06 AM  
Anonymous Melifer said...

Wow. Getting fired sucks. But at least you weren't fired from a job you loved and thought you were well suited for. It sounds as though Tracy was right on the money. (Perhaps a poor choice of words, given what else is going on!) I don't have any great suggestions for you about future jobs, but I hope what you find is immensely satisfying for you - and I hope you knock your next boss's socks off!

1/11/2008 12:11 AM  
Blogger Ellen said...

Oh, gee. :(
Check the listings at They always have interesting-sounding jobs, such as
I don't know of any game shows staffing at the moment.

1/12/2008 3:14 PM  
Anonymous Angela said...

Wow, just look at it as a new adventure. Thank GOD for you rent free apartment rght at the time you needed it most. I hope you enjoy your few moments of peace before it's crunch time.

1/16/2008 4:56 PM  
Anonymous Tracy said...

okay, NOW can I say "I told ya so," guy with an agent and looming book deal?

I am super-proud of you, my friend, for turning this lil' setback into the opportunity of a lifetime.

5/12/2008 12:28 AM  

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