I haven’t written in a while, but I got a wild hair tonight and thought, What the hell. I’ll write a blog post.
I think the reason I’ve held off is typical of the perfectionist in me in that I wanted to find the perfect way to announce that I’ve gone back to the 9-to-5 world. As if there’s a perfect way to say that. If there is, this isn’t it, but it’s the way I’m doing it, so, here we are.
I made the decision to go from foot-loose-and-fancy-free freelancing to 9-to-5 work for a combination of reasons. But the biggest and most influential one is the one that was hardest to admit, and so it’s probably why I’ve put it off for so long. But here it is: I was lonely.
It’s hard to work alone every day. To summon the discipline it takes to get up, get to your computer, and get to work, with no one around to bear witness to “the injustice of it all.” Or to laugh with you about how, Hell, it’s Monday. Or to bitch with about an empty coffee pot (It’s Janice’s turn to make it, dammit!). Or to roll your eyes with about those damn TPS reports. OK, I’ve never had to deal with TPS reports, but you know what I’m saying. Working alone is a lonely business. And after two years, I couldn’t do it anymore.
I wouldn’t take it back. I had the chance to travel whenever I felt like it, and I did. I was my own boss, for better or worse. I lived a dream I’d wanted since college. I’m so proud of myself for going for it, and also more than a little humbled by the reality that, once again, what I thought I wanted wasn’t actually what I wanted, in the end.
But I’m beginning to realize we don’t do things to get to the end—it’s the middle part that counts. And the middle part of freelancing was really glorious.
So I’m getting this blog post out to try to build some momentum to publish some more. But, full disclosure, I’m working to finish a collection of nonfiction short stories, and that’s going to take priority over this blog.
I’ve been working on this book for a couple of years now. It’s tentatively titled Living with Strangers in Shitty Apartments. It’s about the 2+ years I lived in New York after college and the motley crew of characters I met and the shenanigans we got into along the way.
Because I’ve been so long in writing anything for this bog, though, I’m going to do a thing I thought I wouldn’t do. I’m publishing an unedited essay that will later appear in the book right here, right now. I hope you like it. And I hope to blog more frequently. In the meantime, though, wish me luck on pushing through with putting out this book—which has turned into a sort of white whale of mine, and which I must harpoon at all costs. Because the alternative is failure, and perfectionists do about as well with that as a soccer mom in a mosh pit.
*Names changed to protect the guilty.
Keep Your Guns to Yourself
Martha was a barfly who spent a lot of time at Mont Blanc, an Eastern European restaurant off 47th street and 8th avenue. I’d go there a lot to flirt with Bryan, the South African bartender eight years my senior who I had decided was probably my soulmate based the two things I knew about him to be true: He was always kept a thick novel behind the bar to read when things were slow, and on his breaks he liked to smoke cigarettes and brood.
I also went for the homemade fruit-infused vodka martinis they served in 6 different flavors for only $9 a pop — an absolute steal by Midtown standards.
As a result, I met Martha many times. I say “met” and not “saw” because she never remembered me from one time to the next. But by the time we got to talking, we’d always become friends in the end.
On one occassion, though, we came dangerously close to parting at odds. That particular evening started out like any other. I walked in and saw Martha sitting at the corner barstool, her designated spot, sipping on her martini and swinging it a little for emphasis as she talked to Bryan who had looked up from his novel to listen to what she had to say. She was in constant danger of spilling the precious elixir, though nary a drop ever actually hit the bar.
I sat down next to her, ordered a pear martini, my favorite, and asked Martha about her day.
“How goes it?”
“Oh, you know. Just another fucking day.”
“I’ll drink to that.”
We got to talking and one thing led to another and she asked me where I was from. I told her I was from Texas, though I’m not really sure if I can say that or not. I was born there, but I grew up in Louisiana, and then I went to college in Texas, so…what does that mean about where I’m from? It means it takes a hell of a long time to explain. So I usually pick between the two states, and that day I happened to land on Texas, and I struck a chord.
“Texas!” Martha exclaimed. “Well. I have one thing to say to you — I don’t think people should have guns.”
I laughed. She didn’t.
And so I quickly changed the subject. It’s easy enough to do when you’re talking to a drunk — they’re like children that way.
A few minutes later and we’d moved on to the ridiculous state of Manhattan realty.
“Where do you live, hmmm?” she asked.
“Off of 47th and 7th, just a few blocks from here.”
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “You’re in the neighborhood! You’re one of us.” She nodded appreciatively at Bryan, who was wholly lost in his book and missed the gesture. “I live off 50th and 9th. Hell’s Kitchen is the only place to live in Manhattan that has any character anymore. The rest of this shithole is fucking dead. Fucking tourists killed it.”
I nodded in response. Then she asked me, “How much do you pay?”
In the South, someone might have preceded that question with a, “if you don’t mind my asking,” but in New York there was no time for such niceties. And I wasn’t a fucking tourist, was I? I could answer her direct question with a direct answer.
“$900 a month,” I told her.
“I’m not finished — it’s $900 a month, for half a living room.”
“Oh, well, that’s just un-fucking-forgivable is what that is. That’s a true shame. A disgrace. You can’t pay that much — if you do that, you let them win! No, you have to move,” she told me.
But this is the only place worth living in in all of Manhattan, I wanted to counter, but I let her keep talking.
“You have to move and come live with me. My son lives there now but he’s not paying a dime in rent, sunovabitch. No, you come stay with me and you’ll pay $300 — I mean $500 a month, and stay on my couch. How does that sound?”
I looked her in the eyes. They were glazed, unfocused. Bryan would be hailing a cab for her in the next fifteen minutes or so, I predicted, as he always did, that gorgeous gentleman I would one day make mine.
And I answered with the first thing that popped into my mind. “Martha, that sounds great!” I told her, “but there’s just one problem.” She leaned in to hear what it was.
“Where am I going to keep all of my guns?”
And she looked at me like I’d slapped her cat. She wasn’t sure if I was joking or serious. Either way it was obvious that she didn’t find it funny. But I couldn’t help myself…I doubled over. I nearly fell off of my own stool, too out of breath to apologize.
“Bryan,” she said with mustered dignity, “I’d like a taxi please.”
He replied in that accent that always made my knees weak, “Certainly, Martha, let’s get you in a cab.”
She left without giving me a second glance. But Bryan, who I guess hadn’t been so absorbed in his book that he missed that little scene, did look back. And he winked. And I flashed him a Texas-sized grin.
Martha was her same old self the next time I popped by, so we got to start anew. And when she asked me where I was from, I made sure I told her I was from a little state down south called Louisiana. And the natural topic of conversation turned to gators. Which are, of course, much less dangerous than guns — at least from a social standpoint.