Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

My Photo
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, September 28, 2008

Bed, Bath, and Aesthetics

Now that the bulk of my work is out of the way for the moment, I’ve been taking the time to do a few other things that have sorely needed doing: bundling up clothes to be donated, emptying boxes, rearranging furniture and the like.

 Chief among these chores has been purchasing actual amenities so that my apartment is less of a hidey-hole and more of an actual nest that people (well, okay, women) might feel comfortable hanging out in.  On Wednesday I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and bought bed stuff (two sets of bedspreads, and enough pillows to smother a giant), and on Friday I went back and bought things for the bath (a scrub brush, new towels, matching brushed-metal wastebasket and soap dispenser, and a funky shower curtain).  On Monday, my plan is to finish up with Beyond—probably a floor lamp and some curtains that are nicer than the bare-bones white Ikea  drapes I’m currently working with.  Then I order a poster or other wall art, do a little drilling (I bought a drill!) and then I can hang out my shingle. 

 I’ve never done this in my life, and it’s paralyzing.  I sent a text to my friend Tracy that said, “I’m in Bed Bath and Beyond and I’m overwhelmed.  How can anyone decide on just one set of pillows?”  I could have happily bought two of each of ten different styles.  I found myself in the bedding area for over an hour, literally staring at five different bed sets and thinking, “What is the shape of my aesthetic?  Orientalist sultan?  Funky modernistic shapes?  Spartan solids?  Country casual?”  They all had different claims on my character.  Apparently I contain multitudes. 

 Of course, ideally when you’re decorating, you’re decorating with things that you bought slowly over the course of many years, and even more ideally, you’re decorating with really original, one-of-a-kind distinctiveness.  I don’t have that kind of money.  So really, I haven’t been thinking, “Who am I really?” but “What subsection of the Bed Bath and Beyond demographic do I seem comfortable representing?”

 The answer, it turns out, is “Whatever’s on clearance.”  It’s not that I’m intensely cheap.  I walked in and said, “Money’s no object; I just want my tiny apartment to be festooned with efficient quality over its modest fractional acreage.”    But after looking over every bedding style they had, I kept coming back to three pieces…and all of them turned out to be on clearance.  Apparently it’s been a bad season for abstract shapes.  Same thing happened in the bathroom.  “Ooh!  A funky brushed-metal look!  I wonder why everyone seems to hate it so?”

 So I bought this stuff, but I admit I’m a little nervous.  It’s possible my place just looks horrible now and I’m the only one who doesn’t know. 

 The thing is, I actually know what my aesthetic is: it’s jokes.  I noticed this a few years ago when I was listing my favorite artists—Paul Klee, Rene Magritte, Roy Liechtenstein, Claes Oldenberg, Salvador Dali, and that reliable puzzle-geek standby M.C. Escher—and I thought, “Wait a minute!  All of these artists are funny!”  They work in visual paradox in some way that tries to disconcert you.  I was forced to admit that I may not know a thing about art: I just know what makes me laugh, and I could very well be embracing total shit just because I like the guy in the picture’s bemused expression.  Without a visual gag of some sort, I have almost nothing to say about any art at all.  And did I mention that I’m colorblind? 

 I’ve tried to decorate in jokes before.  It’s a disaster.  Since my humor seems to run in a kind of pop culture/pop art/comic book vein, everything that amuses me demands one’s attention, and if you stick even three of them together in a single room—say, a Simpsons calendar, a Humphrey Bogart Scrabble board, and curtains with retro cowgirls on them—the place starts looking awfully cluttered.  Additional problem: even if I like jokes and pop culture, I’m not going to get laid if I have Bugs Bunny sheets, even if I suspend large metal quotation marks directly over the bed.  At some point you have to rein it in. 

 What I’m telling myself now, and I almost believe it, is that the styles I’ve chosen are on clearance because they’re distinctly masculine—triangles and squares floating on a backdrop of gunmetal gray and chocolate are at any rate not girly—and this makes me not so much classless as a non-normative Bed Bath and Beyond shopper.  I know this much for a fact, because I was there, surrounded chiefly by women and more women. The only men I saw were being pulled along by female partners.  By the time I hit the checkout, I felt disgustingly hairy and in need of a manicure.

 But the deed is done, and in a week or two I’m hoping to have an open house where friends can come by and judge for themselves.  (Then we’ll repair to a nearby bar.  There’s really no room in my place for more than four people, and two have to stand—plus we all have make loud humming noises if anyone uses the bathroom.)  I can say two things, however: I like it a good deal.  And I have eight very comfy pillows on my sofabed.  That’s right, ladies—eight giant pillows. 



Blogger hollholl said...

You used two of my favorite words in this entry: festooned and hidey-hole. *And* you have eight giant pillows. That's marvelous.

10/03/2008 8:50 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home