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!

Friday, April 11, 2008

CYBERCRISIS!: A Drama In Real Life

Okay. Without going into too much detail, I'll say this: I've scored a really nice writing gig that will pay enough that I don't have to hunt for a job for a little while. Much needed relief! The downside, of course, is that I need to write. Today was day three of the project.

So I woke up this morning, as the blues songs have it, and my computer was dead. I should have seen this coming. I bought the computer after my last computer's collapse, and it ran me only $200. It was a pretty good friend for a few months there: portable, clean, responsive. The only problem was that it would occasionally collapse completely, turning into a blue screen filled with scary half-sentences. ("IRQ not less or equal. Restart in Safe Mode and remove Bios shadowing, which we assume you know how to do...") These collapses became more and more frequent, but by my calculations, I only needed the computer to last two more months.

Obviously, it didn't make it. I defibrillated for a little while, but there's not an ounce of current moving through the damn thing, and so I--with about $1500 to my name--had to go about finding another computer.
I called my brother and asked if he could overnight one of his old ones...but he doesn't have any old ones anymore. "There's one out in the garage, I think," he said. "But you might want to try Craigslist. Anything you pay there is about what I'd pay to overnight a desktop computer."

Excellent idea! Well, it's not an excellent idea, because I could see a fifth of my money vanishing instantly. But it's not like I had any choice. I had to buy something. But first I needed to get online...and from what little bumbling I managed to do, it seems that there are no Internet cafes in Jersey City (where I'm currently housesitting.) And there are CERTAINLY going to be no Internet cafes up in Hudson New York, where I'm going to be sequestered for May and June. So I have a relatively brief window of opportunity to make this purchase.

So I went into the city, hoping to find just such a cafe. I took the PATH train to 14th, because it's pretty busy and has lots of students. (There are more students below 14th, but that's off the grid and I get lost easily.) But when I went to Union Square--which is right near NYU, for God's sake--I discovered that the Kinko's AND the UPS Store were both Internet-free.

"How the hell do I get online?" I asked the UPS Store guy.
"Right around the corner at Tasti D-Light," he said, pointing.

What a notion! I've seen Tasti D-Lights all over town, but I've never really given them much thought because a.) they only sell dairy products I can't eat, and b.) every time I see their signs I want to correct their spelling. Also, honestly, there's no way to look cool while standing near the word "Delight." (Sunny D orange drink has been fighting that problem for years, never winning convincingly.) But apparently they have Internet access as well! I'm not ashamed to say it: Tasti D-Light kicks ass.

So I went to the Tasti D-Light...and discovered that it opened at noon. It was 11:27. Well, great, I thought. What do I do for exactly half an hour? I was making my way north on 4th Avenue when I heard a guy say, "Looking for a story?"

I turned, and it was...a guy. I'd forgotten his name, but he's a regular at all of Sherry Weaver's Speakeasy shows. He knew who I was! I didn't know much about him, really--we've talked a few times at parties--except that he seemed likely to be a nice, lefty, Boomer-era hippie type, since that's what most of Sherry's friends are. "How are things?" he queried.

"Funny you should ask," I said. And I told him about my situation.

"There's another Internet cafe down this way," he said. He lived in the neighborhood. "Or, if you want an old iMac, I have one of those at home. I'd just need it back eventually."

I goggled and followed him back. Turns out his name's Bob. And sure enough, he had an iMac! (They looked smaller in the commercials.) He even gave me an old golf bag to lug it around in. I went down the block to Starbucks to check it out--it must have been quite a sight, me actually setting up an entire desktop in public--and it works just fine. It's not a laptop, and it's a helluva thing to tote back to Jersey, but the price was right (I'll be in touch, Bob!), and you gotta admit: it makes one helluva story.

Thanks to Bob for his amazing generosity. Thanks for Sherry, for introducing us, and for offering me her house in the Berkshires while I try to pull in a little writing money. And thanks to the universe in general, for throwing together little miracles like this when we need them.

P.S. The iMac only has two USB ports, and it uses one for the mouse and one for the keyboard. This makes it impossible for me to get wi-fi with my handy card. Anyone out there have any ideas? (Oh, wait. Call me if you know the number. Otherwise, if I can't figure this out myself, I guess there'll just be silence for a while...)

P.P.S. This was written at Tasti D-Light. Try some of their fine products today!



OpenID toonhead-npl said...

Ummm how about plugging the mouse into one of the USB ports on either side of the keyboard? ;)

4/11/2008 2:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Keyboard should have two USB ports on it. Plug the mouse into one of those and you have one free on the computer for your WIFI card.

4/11/2008 4:10 PM  
Blogger HawaiianBrian said...

What kind of iMac is this? Is it one of those colorful ones, like lime or tangerine? If so, the keyboard itself should have USB ports for the mouse, which should free up one in back for your wi-fi.

When it comes time to get a new computer, I'd recommend getting a laptop. I think you'd like it for its portability, though that also means you need to be careful with it. But I love laptops because you can go sit on the couch and use them, move to the table, pack it up and go to Barnes & Noble, or whatever.

If you get a Mac, which I of course suggest for their reliability, there are really cool programs you can get these days that cover all your bases. There's one called NeoOffice that is an open-source version of MS Word, for starters, and you can run all your PC games and software by partitioning the hard drive so it is "dual-boot," running both Windows and Mac on the same computer. It's sweet.

4/11/2008 6:22 PM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

Oh, I'm definitely getting a Mac--a Mac Air, dammit!--the second my big payday arrives. Till then, I'm trying not to spend a whole lot on a computer that's only supposed to last me a few months.

Which is why it pains me to say that the computer uses a PC keyboard with no such ports in it. Thanks for trying, guys! Looks like I'm writing for the next few months from the year 2000. It was an innocent time, with truly crappy graphics.

4/11/2008 6:57 PM  
OpenID toonhead-npl said...

Well until that day, just pick up a USB hub. They're really cheap and you can plug it directly into your computer and have extra ports for everything else. They should go for practically nothing on Craig's List since all you can use is USB 1.1 with that old iMac. (Just make sure it's a POWERED USB hub; one that use your computer for juice are limiting.)

4/12/2008 10:51 AM  

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