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!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The New Place, The Old Me

As many of you know, I’m currently housesitting until March for a relatively well-heeled friend who lives in Brooklyn. Scratch that: I’m not housesitting; I’m the landlord. For the next three months I’m supposed to collect rent, call the plumber, shovel the walk, take out the trash, and address other related concerns of my three renters. In a way, it’s like the first week at a new job, where you look around at the projects and sit in at the meetings and think, “I don’t understand any of this, it’s all over my head, and if anyone knew how inept I am I’d be fired instantly.” (Please tell me this is normal.)

I assume I’ll get used to it eventually, but let me just say that the most alarming part is that the place is huge (by New York City standards), and I don’t have a roommate. I haven’t lived alone since 1999. And I discovered almost instantly why not: my shit is everywhere. It’s not dirty, it’s just cluttered, and I’m damned if I can understand how anyone figures out where to put everything. Admittedly, I’ve added an entire roomful of belongings to an only mildly deserted apartment, and I’ve only been there a week, and basically everything is still exactly where I dropped it in my post-move exhaustion. But still—I’ve decided I’d better have some people over for a round of games just so I have an excuse to take my books and toiletries off the dinner table. In the meantime, everywhere I go in the apartment, I think, “I could be just flouncing around naked this very instant.” I have done no flouncing, clothed or otherwise, but the temptation is always present. Actual privacy! I hope I don’t go mad with power.

I’ve already faced my first crisis. Just as the weather got bitterly cold—on Tuesday it was 15 degrees, with a Soviet wind—the inner door kind of broke. We have two massive old wooden doors at the entrance: an outer door that locks nicely, and an inner door that has a knob but no lock, and which separates the rest of the brownstone from the tiny nook where the mailboxes are. Yesterday I walked into the entryway, locked the door behind me, checked the mail—and found myself trapped in the foyer. The doorknob of the inner door wasn’t working. I banged. I yelled. I felt like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. I was eventually let in by my upstairs tenant, a lovely young woman who said, “Yeah, the door sometimes gets stuck, but it’s the only way to keep the cold air out.” I tested it both ways and she was right. I called my friend, who said I should simply remove the doorknob and take it down to the hardware store on the corner. The tools, she said, were in the closet.

If I ever tire of my vagabond life and decide to settle down to a sensible career as a stagehand, I hope they never look up my junior high grades in shop class. As I stared at that doorknob, with an enormous rugged toolbag at my feet, it all came flooding back: my suspicious loathing of sharp metal objects; the struggle it took to draft a three-way view of something as simple as an ashtray; the smell of solder on my sleeve. I’m like a dyslexic, but with real-world objects. So after scrutinizing the door mechanism (you turn the handle and the latch moves backward somehow! Genius!), I used every size of screwdriver I could find to unscrew every attachment I could identify…and still nothing moved. Three screws have resisted my allegedly opposable thumbs, two by being too small and one by sheer cussedness. As a result, I still can’t remove anything, and the doorknob is still broken, but the metal panel it’s set in now dangles upside-down from the one holdout screw. I covered the latch with electrical tape, and if the latch pops up, you can yank sideways on the tape, and if you shove with your shoulder it should scrape open. But between the loose dangling plate and the obviously stopgap electrical tape, all you can say about it is that it works. Normally, “it works,” is enough for me: I’ve spent a lifetime hammering with my shoe and throwing away entire halogen lamps that looked too confusing to replace bulbs on. But for the next three months, and for the first time in my life, my work has an audience. So far, it’s pretty embarrassing. I'm tempted to take night classes just so people like me--but it'll be so much easier to just buy everyone Twinkies and then keep out of sight.

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Anonymous Angela said...

Dude, that is so funny. You can bend words to your will but you can't work a screw driver. Maybe you could ask a pretty woman in high heels who happens to be passing by to help. I'm sure she could figure it out. Then maybe you could ask her out. Two birds, one stone.

1/07/2008 6:42 PM  
Blogger HobokenBiscuit said...

Dave, I'll fix your door for you. I'll even let you wear my toolbelt, and possibly the high heels. It is, after all, the true uniform of an NYC handypants.

But seriously, my friend. You must learn to at least cook or something. Words will only take you so far when the cold wind blows.

1/08/2008 6:15 PM  

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