Category Archives: New York City

Ok, Cupid, I’ll Hear You Out

My first dalliance with internet dating took place in Cincinnati – it was a spur of the moment thing, incited by a recent break-up and completely reasonable realization that I was going to die in a empty room, surrounded by half-eaten nachos and ferret corpses. We met at a coffee shop, shared a sandwich and a few laughs, and parted ways after a brief hug. She was perfectly pleasant, just not my type. You know, the type that laughs like they’re having an asthma attack and has a dead tooth. That type. Still, it was a cordial affair – no murders took place – and it certainly didn’t turn me off to the idea of future online adventures.

To me this was a sign of growing maturity. My social anxiety has always been a meddlesome thing. It’s by no means crippling;  it’s more like that smoking habit you just can’t break, a nuisance that prevents you from a healthy lifestyle. You know it’ll hurt in the long run, but it’s oh-so-easy to let it continue. Sure, I could go out and enjoy the world, but maybe I’ll just stay in and watch Sportscenter for five hours. What could I possibly miss? Oh, I don’t know, maybe meeting the love of your life? No big deal.

This lingering “What if?” feeling never really went away, because I routinely refused to do anything about it. But now, after this one afternoon with a stranger, I had discovered a possible way to become visible to the world, albeit through the internet world, which still counts for those keeping a figurative scorecard in the game of life.

It wasn’t until I moved to New York City that I made a concerted effort to meet people online. It made sense, given that I was relatively friendless and a little (extremely) intimated by the millions of people meandering about within the five boroughs. A friend recommended a site (a free one, the most important kind) where he had found varied success in meeting like-minded folks. After signing up I quickly discovered that the stigma against online dating doesn’t really exist in NYC. You know the stereotype – that only the hopelessly unappealing and horribly disfigured (read: fan fiction authors) open dating profiles. Now, granted, I’ve written my share of Paul Blart novellas (Paul Blart: Supercuts Stylist is a personal favorite. Will he save the day from the dastardly aftershave thief? Such suspense!), but I’d like to think I’m modestly appealing – a solid 6.25/10. I’m no Thomas Selleck, but that’s setting the bar unrealistically high.

But there’s no need to worry about appearing like a monstrosity in New York – it’s a different breed, a place filled with nomadic people searching for other itinerants that love to wax poetically about how wonderful the city can be. Everyone needs everyone, and it doesn’t matter how you come across each other. Plus, there are so many weirdos wearing bandanas as underwear on the subway that you’ll look downright Quigley Down Under-like in comparison. This calmed down the nerd within me, no longer in fear of being exposed (as a rabid Selleck fan? Also true.).

I didn’t contact anybody at first – I mostly just looked around, i.e., window shopped for humans, to place it in a more John Wayne Gacy, Jr.-ish light. I needed to understand the process before I jumped in completely, screaming, “Hey, you, let’s get together and talk about our album collections and possibly touch mouths!” Immediately it became clear that most people are looking for the same things: they like to have a good time; they really hate it when people confuse your/you’re and their/there/they’re; and they’re really into witty conversation. Who knew, right? This whole time I thought people lusted after illiterate dullards. I’ve been going about it all wrong.

I received a few messages here and there, but nothing from somebody that made me immediately think, “This gal is not only super cute, but she appears to be a real person and not a Russian prostitute.” It wasn’t until a picture of a pale young women covered in platinum blond bangs popped up to say “Hey”  that I felt like taking a step forward. Nothing in her profile seemed off-putting, no warning signs went off. She was like me – a recent Southern transplant looking for someone to join her on big city explorations. I responded with some simple questions and bad jokes, as I am wont to do, and expected to hear back in a few days. Then a window opened up on my computer screen. It was the site’s chat program, something I normally disabled due to its ability to make me go, “OH GOD NO GO AWAY GO AWAY,” but this time I had forgotten to click “sign off.” It had been only a few minutes since I sent the message, so this girl was really gung-ho about becoming my friend. This should have been clue number one that something wasn’t quite right.

After calming my heartbeat down to Terror Alert Level Yellow, I decided to respond. Nothing out of the ordinary – it was friendly chatter about the city, the awkwardness of the online world, etc. Eventually she cut right to the chase, “We both live in Astoria, would you like to have a drink?” This was on a weeknight around 9pm, AKA, clue number two. But I was in the city and actively looking for adventures, so it didn’t occur to me that a last second blind date on a Tuesday night wasn’t something sensible people do. I was overcoming my irrational fears by behaving irrationally. Made total sense at the time.

I agreed that it was a grand idea, but had to admit that my knowledge of decent nightspots was still non-existent. She immediately came back with, “I have a bottle of wine at my apartment – do you want to just to come here?”

Clue. Number. Three.

But when presented with any sort of opportunity to not exist in a public place, my mind goes, “Yes, please, and thank you.” Not only was I avoiding flop sweat in a crowded bar, but the wine was already accounted for. Dry palms and a full wallet? Yes and yes. Thankfully, she didn’t care that I was so blatantly lazy and cheap. That should be a good sign for me, yes? I was so over-the-moon about my luck that I didn’t fully understand the next question:

“Are you green-friendly?”

Do I care about the environment? Do I recycle? Is my carbon footprint under control? I mean, I suppose so. I don’t own a car and my apartment building has mandatory recycling. This 21st century progressive woman was just making sure I wasn’t an Earth destroyer. No big deal, other than clue #4 open-hand slapping me in the face.

With my own personal brand of naivety, I had believed this would be a genuine “first date,” only at a more private location. We’d exchange pleasantries, order in a dinner of some kind, share a drink and (hopefully) decent conversation, and I’d be on my way at a gentlemanly hour. This is something I’ve come to realize about New York: the upper case, by-the-book “First Date” doesn’t live in Pleasantville anymore. No one wants to share a phosphate and a licorice whip, Lady and the Tramp-style. They want to get to business – not, like “I’m going to rub my body against yours,” but a more to-the-point, “let’s not do anything fucking boring, you fucking boring fuck.” My Tobey Maguire-looking ass was going about it all wrong.

I showed up at the address, bottle of Riesling in-hand (I had a sudden guilty feeling about not contributing), and called to be let into the building. No answer. I dialed again. Nothing. Was I being pre-rejected? Did she suddenly realize that this was an insane thing for a woman to do? Part of me was relieved. I’m all over the easy way out when things get strange, so I turned 180° and prepped for a solo night of way-too-sweet wine drinking.

In a case of not-s0-perfect timing, my phone rang at the exact moment I entered my apartment, post 20-minute walk.

“Where are you?” she said in a slightly indignant tone.

“I was at your building, but you didn’t answer my call.”

“WHAT? So are you coming back?”

She sounded a little shaky, like she was moments away from tears.

“I mean, I can, but do you really want me to come?”

I was hesitant not because she sounded unstable, but because I’m lazy and was not about to walk another mile for no reason.

“Yes! I’ll wait for you downstairs,” she exclaimed, like it was Christmas morning.

I took this in a complimentary way. She really wanted to meet me. My dating profile was obviously off-the-charts amazing. I was in demand. Worth the effort. Obviously.

A brisk trek later, there she was sitting on the stoop: a petite, nothing of a lady, with the skin tone of someone with a severe sun allergy (that’s a compliment, I think). She was cute, a crooked smile similar to mine rose to greet me. I was relieved, because she was a real person who was attractive, and not a Nigerian prince with a ponzi scheme. I could tell that she was relieved as well, but it was more of a, “finally, dickhead,” kind of solace.

She interacted with me like we were lifelong friends; no hesitations, no awkward hellos, just a, “Come in! Say hi to my cat! Let’s have a drink!” So, with that, we went inside, I gave the cat a rub, and opened up the bottle. Her apartment was a good size for a one-bedroom in Queens, so she had to have a decent job, or was a living Dickens protagonist with an unnamed benefactor paying her way. Even with its size it was a little cramped: tons of books, LPs and potted plants lined the floors. There were empty wine bottles across the coffee table, and, most importantly, the entire place smelled like B-Real’s recording studio. Was this lady also insane in the membrane? I was for sure out of my mind. “Are you green-friendly?” How did I not know what that meant? In my pitiful defense, it’s just not part of my culture. I had only smoked two times in my entire life, and even then I didn’t really enjoy myself. I was more curious than anything.

But now I had been invited to get drunk and high with a pretty stranger. There was no escape now – I had to save face and entertain this person. Not that I couldn’t have crept out while she was in the bathroom, but my stingy manners wouldn’t allow me to do so. It was nearly eleven o’clock, so dinner was an afterthought – we were immediately taking the ferry to Lose Our Inhibitions Island.

At first I stuck to strictly wine, as I wasn’t going to get high with a random person. Not for moral or safety reasons, but because I didn’t want to embarrass myself. The previous two times I dabbled? I feel asleep within 20 minutes after rubbing my body up against a couch. So, no thanks, beautiful, I’ll stick to the substance that just makes me smile a bunch.

Our chit-chat was relatively normal – what do you do, how long have you been here, what are your hopes and aspirations, blah blah de blah. Then the “truth” started to drip out. Genuine personalities took shape.

“I could have been a singer, you know. I’m, like, really good. Listen…”

She began to serenade me in between drags of a cigarette.

“Sweet like candy to my soul, sweet you rock, and sweet you roll. Lost for you, I’m so lost for you. You come crash into me…”

Internally, I’m screaming, “Is that the goddamned Dave Matthews Band?” Externally, I’m grinning ear-to-ear. I can’t believe how odd this night has suddenly become. I don’t want to leave. I just want to drink and get high. A Dave Matthews Band fan? I’m shallow enough to not care what this person thinks, based solely on her shitty taste. You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts.

The first bottle of wine was gone, the first joints were complete, and I was currently five seconds behind real life.

“Yeah, I was married for a little while,” she said, after no lead-in question.

A few beats passed. I said nothing.

“Just didn’t work out. He went crazy. He’s homeless now, living on the streets of Austin. Probably shouldn’t have gone off his meds.”

My eyelids were so heavy that I considered falling asleep instead of having to actually respond to that statement. Instead, I blurted out, “Yeah, probably a bad choice on his part.”

She inched closer to me. I was slouched at a nearly horizontal level on the sofa, catatonic for several minutes. Moving was not an easy task; my body was made of concrete. She was not to be dissuaded.

“If you’re into it, I have some pills we can take. I found a doctor who’s totally cool. He’ll give you anything you need.”

Even in a state of fierce inebriation, that was an eye-opener, a truly terrifying thing to hear.

“No, thanks. You can if you’d like, I’m in a good place at the moment,” I replied, hoping beyond hope that she wouldn’t actually indulge. The last thing I wanted to do was take a ride in an ambulance and have a conversation with a cop, obviously.

This was really happening, right? Was I spooning with a pill addict I met on the internet?  The devil on my shoulder, who rarely gets a time to shine, screamed out, “This is really happening and I’ve got a boner!” I gave him a tiny high five, and proceeded to make out with this person on her cat hair-covered couch.

This lasted, at most, five minutes before I passed out. What she did after that, I haven’t the foggiest idea. She could have pranced me down Astoria Boulevard, Weekend at Bernie’s style, for all I know. My hope is she fell asleep, but someone of her experience probably just stayed up and stared at my body, whispering, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die, cause we’re tripping billies.”

Next thing I know, light is shining through the windows and I have a person on top of me. My head is made of pudding and the angel on my shoulder is shaking its head, saying, “A high-five? Really.” I looked away in shame, and just tried to go back asleep. But sleep wouldn’t come. I was too unnerved. I poked at her face. Nothing. I rolled her a little bit. Nothing. One full-blown shove later and I was free. She was dead weight. Being the considerate soul that I am, I checked to make sure she was breathing. Yup, still alive. Bullet? You’ve been dodged.

I collected my things and did my best to remove any trace that I was ever there. Maybe she would come to think that I was a mirage. She was probably prone to hallucinations, the odds were on my side. The walk home was truly humbling. Not that any passersby would know of my secret shame. It was twenty minutes of pure, unadulterated self-loathing.

“This is why you don’t meet people online! What if she had stuck you with a needle? You could have the bug, son!” I irrationally thought to myself.

I told nobody of this experience; just that I had been on a date and it had not gone well. A few days passed before she contacted me.

“Hey, we never finished what we started,” read her text. I didn’t respond. A few more were left unanswered before she sent, “I blew it, didn’t I?” This was mildly heartbreaking. I sent back nothing more than, “Yes.” And that was that.

It is my sincere wish that this woman eventually found somebody that wanted to get lifted with her on the reg. Someone that can fully appreciate a “cool doctor” and his/her usefulness. Mostly, I just hope that she isn’t dead. If you’re reading this, then you’re not dead. Good to know.

You would think, as a reasonable person, that this was the end of my online adventures in the city. Well, you would be wrong, as I am a romantic idiot, and no drug-addled disaster will sway me from that namesake. Several more dates were to come, because there was no chance they could go any worse than this first one. Or so I thought.

*check back in six months for the next story, as it took me several months to finish this one*

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Filed under New York City, online dating

How to Make a Cop Laugh in Your Face: A Tutorial

Officers, when you put me in this position I can't do my work.

New York can be a confusing place for a recent transplant. You don’t want to look like a tourist, ripe for the picking for the thousands of nogoodniks, ruffians, and roustabouts. So you concoct this faux-bravado that should, if successful, make you appear invincible to a week-long vacation in the ICU. You walk with a purpose, defiant against those that want to stop and stare at pigeons –“Yes, that one’s black. Amazing. Now get your Tommy Bahama shirt out of my way.” You hide behind sunglasses, mean mug like someone just told you the Cheesy Gordita Crunch has been permanently discontinued, and you certainly  don’t openly wave about your gaggle of Apple products. You are local, and just like your close friends, The Wu Tang Clan, you are not to be fucked* with.

But you also don’t want this facade to turn a tame interaction into the perfect shitstorm. You want to be prepared for anything, but this can lead to something the French like to call, “le wacky situation.” An example would be, say, thinking somebody is attempting to rob you, so you react as any tough-as-nails New Yorker would: with violence. Only this person isn’t trying to rough you up. You have done something stupid. You have egg on your face. You look ridiculous. You may soon have a court date.

This was me last week. Only I decided to boost, Jamba Juice style, my wacky situation by almost physically assaulting a member of the NYPD.

I have never been in a fight. I’ve never so much as slapped a bully for getting saucy on the playground. So if I had received my very first felony for accosting a cop, the Irony Police would have been on my ass for giving them too much paperwork. This surely would have sent me spiraling toward a life of breaking into Paint Your Own Pottery stores to huff fresh acrylics. I do not deal with Job-esque trials very well. This was a close call.

I was returning from one of my usual late nights at a Starbucks near Times Square (streaming episodes of Becker on Netflix, of course), heading toward the 42nd Street subway stop. I had my headphones on — another tactic used to look unapproachable in the city — so I was not living in the land of the hearing-abled. When I reached the end of the stairs leading toward the platform, I felt a hand pushing me from behind, trying to lead me around a corner. Given that I couldn’t hear a thing, I just assumed that I was about to be shanked to bits in the darkened catacombs of the New York underground. So I pushed the hand away from my back, and spun around ready to wildly destroy a man’s holy of holies with my fists. Luckily, I wasn’t high on fresh kiln fumes and I had my wits about me, so I immediately recognized the man in blue with the shiny piece of metal attached to his chest. I shouted out, “OH, MY GOD, I COULDN’T HEAR YOU!” and waited for the warm embrace of electricity to overtake my body.

Presented immediately to my left, the very direction I was being guided, was a table for bag checks. And sitting behind the table was another cop, trying not to laugh in my face. The officer behind me just shook his head and said, “Random bag check, sir,” and walked away. I continued to apologize to the laughing man, who politely said, “Maybe don’t play your music so loud. Have a nice night,” and sent me on my way to Fresh Change of Pants Island.

Is there a moral to this story? Perhaps it is to not automatically assume that everyone in New York City wants to shatter your inner goodness. Possibly. But I’m going to go with the ever popular “Rock and Roll is the work of the devil and should be destroyed through prayer.” If I hadn’t been listening to that filth at such a dastardly volume, I never would have found myself in such a quandary. Now I’m off to watch The Food Network to count how many times someone says the word “loins.” EVERYONE KNOWS THAT PORK LOINS ARE THE CREATION OF THE GAY CHEF AGENDA!**

* Sorry, mom. For Mother’s Day this weekend, I vow to hold my curs-ed tongue.
** For the record, I’m on board with this agenda. Have you seen Brian Boitano’s show? Dude can cook!

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Filed under idiots, New York City

How to Turn the Subway into a Creative Outlet and Not into a Crime Scene

"Don't mind me, just keeping reading your book. I love Dan Bro...knives? What knives? Oh, these knives. *sharpens knives*

One of the main attractions of a large city, at least for me, is the subway system. There’s just something about riding in a large metal tube several feet underground that makes me absolutely giddy, and it has nothing to do with my lifelong dream of becoming a supervillian named The Trainiac. Public transportation mostly gives me the opportunity to abandon the fierce rage that boils within when I drive a car. The only time the urge to scream at my fellow man overtakes me is when I’m on the highway, most often in stopped traffic.

True story: I once yelled, “Turn signals keep you from crashing and going to hell!” at an elderly woman. Sure, my windows were up and she couldn’t hear me, but Jesus could, and that doesn’t bode well for my chances of becoming an angel. Papa wants those wings, so driving needed to become a thing of the past. So for both the betterment of my mental health and my “eternal soul,” I sold off my car and moved to the land of cheap(ish) transit.

Of course, I’m not trying to argue that people don’t hulk out on the subway on a daily basis, because, believe me, they surely do. On certain lines at certain times, you’ll find cars packed to the brim, bits of people rubbing where they shouldn’t be rubbing, and in an instant, someone will blurt out, “I COULD JUST KILL A MAN!” That’s when I apologize meekly and slink out onto the platform. I jest, of course, but the only reason this doesn’t actually happen is because I’m not in the safety of my own personal vehicle. Anyone in a family sedan can find the cajones to scream out a window if the fear of a violent retribution doesn’t exist, but having an outburst in a crowd full of crankies, some of whom are carrying shivs? That’s when common sense overtakes the power of hulkamania.

In my time here, I’ve slowly developed a method for avoiding peculiar interactions (read: getting molested) on the train. This is for people like me that do not like to read while in motion. Sorry, nerds, I get headaches, so burying your face into a book is not an option for prolonging awkwardness/death. My method is threefold:

First, do not make eye contact with anyone. I don’t care who they are — an 80-year old woman carrying a purse full of yarn or a teenager with eyeball tattoos — you just never know who will peer into your very soul at first glance.

Second, select a spot either above or below to direct your gaze. This means either involuntary signing up for online technical school, thanks to superbly designed advertisements, or developing a shoe fetish. I’ve chosen the latter. Sure, I could earn another useless degree, but becoming intimately familiar with the entire line at Shoe Carnival? You can’t put a price on that kind of education. You gain this profound knowledge, because dozens of pairs of shoes are presented before you in a nice, little row — an urban vegetable garden of sorts — except this one grows orthopedic nursing shoes. Edible? Your call, boss.

Lastly, having chosen your target, do whatever you can to maintain your focus. Sing a song, list off the starting lineup of the Harlem Globetrotters (don’t forget El Gato!), use the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh to achieve Nibbana, you know, whatever works for you. Personally, I like to use writing exercises. This means taking your surroundings, whatever you see or hear, and turning them into something original, like a joke or a story. Effective, beneficial, nerdy — it gets the job done. My favorite? Without taking into account the people attached to them, create a character based on whatever shoe you see at the moment. Where has that shoe been? What has it seen with its shoe eyes? Does it have scars/scuff-marks? This may sound ridiculous at first — mostly because it is ridiculous — but it really does help get those stubborn creative juices off the futon and into action. To help illustrate that I’m not completely batshit, here’s what I came up with on my commute this afternoon:

What I see: A size 17 Reebok basketball shoe, visibly worn, originally white with red fringe, but now more of a beige.

What’s its story: This shoe has seen the floor of dozens of college gyms throughout the country. It has become very familiar with the floor, because it rarely moves more than a few inches off the ground. This shoe is attached to a former Division II college basketball player named Sergei, a 37-year old, 7’2″ Slovakian with a dream — to play for the New Jersey Nets. Sergei and his Reeboks have been through a lot: thousands of line sprints, rebound attempts, posterizations by more athletic players, the works. But they do not give up. After every slamajama humiliation, they pick themselves up off the floor and run back on offense. They will impress the scouts. They will make the league before their 40th and 19th birthdays. So they will continue to play garbage time minutes for D-League teams throughout the country. It is destiny, even if Sergei is starting to get liver spots on his legs and the Reeboks smell like death tastes. It shall be done!

Now I have a character with a background to work with. This could be an amusing story, yes? Just agree with me, for argument’s sake. Instead of getting into a staring contest that can only end in tears with a smelly guy wearing ancient gym shoes, I created something. Win/win, if you ask me. Of course, it didn’t occur to me that staring at someone’s feet and suddenly starting to cackle like a lunatic might be a little unsettling for a select few. This is still a work in progress, so if you get smashed to bits utilizing one of my methods, expect a full refund within 5-7 working days (The unemployed don’t have working days, suckers!).

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Filed under New York City, writing

NYC Story of the Day – 1/27/10

Before we made the move from Cincinnati, Margaret-Ellen (my roommate) assured me that if I couldn’t find a full-time job right away, she could easily set me up with some promotional work. For the uninitiated, or more specifically, for the non-actor, promo jobs turn you into a second-rate “Barker Beauty” from The Price is Right. You show up to a supermarket, or a street corner, and promote a product, whether it’s a new bottle of wine, a slab of ribs, or a mafia-run comedy club. It’s a quick way to make money, and I certainly don’t blame anyone for doing it. You work short shifts, like four hours or less, and they cut you a check. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

But if you are aware of who I am, you know the idea of selling something to a stranger on the street, or even just handing out coupons in a busy area, makes the bile rise up from my stomach. I’m getting acid reflux just thinking about it. What made me extra uncomfortable is most companies require a headshot. I certainly don’t blame them — I wouldn’t want an uggie on my payroll either. But only those in the entertainment business have headshots; I have camera phone shots of me mean-mugging at karaoke bars. I’m not about to get turned down for a job standing in front of a strip club divvying out VIP passes because my sunny disposition doesn’t burst forth in a picture. So while I certainly appreciated the offer for work, I chose to remain poor and keep whatever shred of self-worth I had left.

Cut to late October and I’m still without work. My self-worth had been demoted from “hangin’ in there” to “the plug should have been pulled weeks ago.”  When I received a call from Margaret-Ellen about a possible job one weekday afternoon, I was willing to accept practically anything. You want me to wear Victoria’s Secret angel wings in Chelsea? No problem. Promote partial birth abortion at a Catholic picnic? Let’s get this party started. Luckily, or more specifically because Margaret-Ellen knew I was more likely to accept this exact job, this one entailed driving a van and driving a van only. There was to be no mingling with the populace. Just pick up the staff and materials, take them to the spot, and wait. This I could do. I can sit in a van and play thumb war with myself for $25 an hour. I have a Ph.D. in Loafing About.

My only remaining apprehension involved my minuscule ego, which would not shut up about our “qualifications.”

“You didn’t go to 20 years of college to drive a van,” said myself.

“But you have rent to pay, and there’s only so much time you can waste browsing the Ikea website. You already have three Liatorps.”

“But they’re economical and they really tie the room together!”

All this inane inner dialogue immediately became moot when I began working the jobs. No matter how overqualified you think you are, nothing beats actual work experience. Humility, it’s nice to make your acquaintance.

On the first day, I managed to get a parking ticket within the first 20 minutes, loaded thirty more boxes into the van than necessary, and arrived to the event nearly a half hour late (thanks to the extraneous boxes). However, I did get to spend several hours watching a failed actor do push-ups in the middle of Times Square.

On the second day, I couldn’t find a parking spot close to the event (near Madison Square Garden), so I had to park it in a garage (added expense). This led to my having to go back and forth several blocks for three hours carrying forty boxes of bagged popcorn. The union that represents my body had a meeting that night, and, thank god, they decided not to go on strike. But I did receive a written warning.

On the third day, I dropped a box full of drug store coupons (about 500) into a puddle about six inches deep, and immediately exclaimed, “Oopsie daisies,” in front of a bodybuilder in a fireman costume, to which he replied, “Need a little help with that, Miss?” A little while after this fantastic conversation, I failed to properly secure a hose on a contraption used for pouring out coffee, and when it burst and sprayed hot coffee all over the ground, nearly scalding the guy in the fireman suit, I shut my eyes tight and waited for the punches to lull me into the waiting arms of a sweet, sweet coma.

On the fourth day, everything was going swimmingly — I found a place to park, NPR was playing decent music, nobody called me a woman, etc. But with about an hour left, I got the urge to drive a few blocks over to a McDonald’s. No big deal, right? What I failed to realize is that most drive-thrus are not designed to support large vans, so when I tried to turn right out of the parking lot, I scraped the entire side of the van against a concrete pillar. What went through my head? Mostly obscenities, but also thoughts of endless debt thanks to endless repair shop bills. There was no talking my way out of this one. No chance the rental company wanted a red racing stripe on the side of their van, even though it did look pretty rad. To top it off, by leaving my cushy parking spot, I had immersed myself in stopped traffic, just in time to be unavailable to drive the staff home. This led to several not-so-happy texts from women named Destiny and Brittnee. I assumed I was fired, so I didn’t even bother to drive back to the office. I went straight to the rental company, showed off my handiwork, and was told there would be a $500 deductible. This was a little comforting, even if it was still a little more than I could handle. Eventually, after a few hours of softly sobbing into a pillow, I emailed my boss and explained the situation (not The Situation). He replied shortly thereafter with a terse sounding, “Don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of the damage. Talk to you soon.” I was grateful to be off the financial hook, but it is safe to say that the job offers went from “daily” to “every other winter solstice” with this company.

So what’s the moral of the story here?

Put on the stupid fireman’s costume and leave the heavy lifting to the professionals.

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Filed under Ineptitude, New York City

NYC Story of the Day – 10/27/09

Let’s begin this latest entry by quoting the great Romantic poet Robert Burns:

The best laid plans of mice and men usually end up getting tossed aside for a quick nap or a few hours googling the names of middle school enemies.

Of course, I’m paraphrasing, but I think his words still hold water. What the fine Scotsman was trying to say is no matter how dedicated you are to an idea, or how hard you prepare, you’re probably going to say “Screw it,” and go watch Hard Rain on Netflix. The man was a revolutionary, ahead of his time.

So, logically, it follows that I am just like Robert Burns: An exceptionally gifted person that just can’t get it together. What’s that you say? Robert Burns was wildly successful and you’re just lazy? Oh, well color me embarrassed.

Almost four months into the New York experiment and things are not quite following my best laid plans. I am not entirely sure what those plans were, but they certainly didn’t involve sitting in a Starbucks all day binge drinking espresso. I could do that in Kentucky, and at least then I wouldn’t have a random 13 year old kid calling me a faggot on the street. Well, that could happen in the Bluegrass, but that’s just heresy at this point.

I spend most of my days job searching, still. What I somehow forgot to remember is that ten percent of this city is also looking for work. No matter how much education I have, or how over-qualified I am for the job, there’s always twenty recently laid off stock brokers applying for the same position. Thankfully, it’s only twenty. It would have been much worse if the other Wall Streeters hadn’t plunged off the Williamsburg Bridge.

I feel like I’m starting this with too much negativity, which is not my intention. I do not regret moving to this city. In fact, it is still the best decision I have ever made. What has happened here is simply further proof that real life hardly ever matches up to the future you’ve mapped out in your head. For me, I envisioned a city that handed out careers once you stepped foot off the tarmac. Call it Midwestern gullibility, call it flat-out stupidity, but my optimism was genuine. If Kenneth Parcell has taught me anything, it’s not to vote Republican or Democrat, because choosing is a sin. Always just write in the Lord’s name. And if he taught me something else, it’s that even country boys can make it in the big city.

And I’m going to leave my complaining at that. The job will come when it comes. No need to expound any further. That’s the last you’ll hear of this. Instead, I’m going to try and tell a story every couple of days. To begin, here’s an interesting tidbit about my first month here:

My one month stay in Brooklyn was an experience. I am not entirely sure how to explain how odd it was without sounding like a liar. It felt like I was living in an Orwell novel — a character being carefully watched, studied, toyed with, by some unseen figurehead. I rented out a room in Prospect Heights from a teacher headed off for a European adventure. When I first visited the apartment, his two roommates were not around, so when they finally came home, I was going to be the strange man eating Pringles on their couch. There was to be no formal “How do you do’s,” no “Nice to meet ya’s” —  just a handing over of keys and a “Have a good month” from the one person I wasn’t going to live with. I was informed that the two other residents were hardly home due to work, and I took this to mean they would eventually come home in the late afternoon. After a few days in the place, not once did I see another person. There was no commotion from their rooms, no clatter in the kitchen, nothing. This wasn’t incredibly disconcerting, because I was gone most of the time as well. Just several days of bad timing for proper introductions.

To settle their possibly troubled minds about the random guy sleeping in the next room, I left a note in the kitchen saying who I was, and that it will be nice to finally meet. One morning, I found the note with fresh ink at the bottom. It read, “Nice to meet you.” That’s it. The man/woman/child/thing with proper penmanship had met me through kitchen table correspondence. Was this to be the extent of our communication? Every night, I’d write down the trials and tribulations of my day on scrap paper, and in the morning I’d find their response, something like, “You and me both, brother!”

Days turned into weeks, and even with my staying at home more often, not one time did I stumble upon a roommate. I started to draft conspiracy theories, the next more absurd than the last. The most unrealistic one involved my taking part in a scientific study. I was now involved in some PhD student’s thesis entitled, “The Phantom Roommate: Are We Ever Truly Alone?” There were cameras in that room, hidden in the futon and record collection. I found myself staring at the ceiling, listening for any sounds of movement that weren’t the screams of the mother of eight next door. At times, I heard rustling about in the bedrooms, and I’d make a habit of making loud noises in the kitchen, as to make them scatter out into the world. But nothing. These people were a myth, or they were simply uninterested in an awkward introduction.

This had to be just as unnerving for them as it was for me. I was there for five weeks. FIVE WEEKS! They played a game of hide and seek in the comfort of their own home for 35 days. You read that right — I lived in a smallish apartment for an entire month and not once did I meet the two other people living there. On my last day, I packed up all my stuff, left the keys on the mantle, and concluded their scientific study by leaving one last note. It read:

Thanks for letting me use your shower.

Love, Matthew

I never heard from the guy after that. I imagine two possible scenarios for the day he returned. His roommates told him a bold-faced lie; that we had a great month bonding over our mutual appreciations. But what’s more likely is they told him I was the weird guy that did weird things in his room. “I’m telling you, bro. We heard weird things coming from the room, inhuman noises, like death rattles muffled by bubble wrap.” I suppose I’m lucky he sent me my deposit. I mean, I did wash his sheets.

More stories to come. Probably.

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Ignorance is Bliss, and It Will Get You Arrested.

I was gullible a large portion of my life. I’ve become much more aware over the years that sometimes, perhaps, just maybe, people may not be telling the complete truth. It was astonishingly bad in my early years. Example: When I was in grade school, someone convinced me that Hulk Hogan had been literally squashed to death by Andre the Giant. I cried all day, lamenting the loss of one of my heroes, just knowing that his casket would be no more than 6 inches tall. He had been flattened like a pancake; my friend Ryan saw it happen. So when the Hulkster showed up on television the next week — standing tall, 24-inch pythons and everything — I knew that I had been duped. Fool me once…..

Things definitely improved as the years went by — years of playing “Hey, Look” definitely helped. You know that game, right? It’s where you make a circle with your fingers below your waist, and if you can get your friends to look directly at it, that somehow gave you the right to punch them. “You looked where I requested you to look. You gave me your trust and I threw it in the garbage. Sucker.” *punch, high five, giddy laughter*

After years of recovering from bruised upper arms, I became more cynical, more aware of how the real world works. People, no matter how wonderful they usually are, can be deceitful. If it seems unreasonable, or too good to be true, then perhaps it is. Take a timeout, let the facts sink in for a moment. Does the 350 lb. guy hitting on you work for the Navy Seals? Did Jessica Alba really respond to your “Missed Connections” ad? Can our black president really be a member of the Nazi Party? Nope, no chance, and definitely not.

There are moments when this outlook doesn’t work out. You can miss out on fantastic opportunities if you aren’t on your game. In high school, an older girl in my art class told me that I was cute, I responded by laughing in her face. I was only protecting myself, or so I thought. This just led to being called, pardon the language, “that fag that giggles like a girl” all semester. That’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, but I also could have fired the first shots of the Sexual Revolution much sooner than I did. C’est la vie.

So what is the purpose of this essay, you may have asked yourself three paragraphs ago?

It seems that New York City, or more specifically, it’s various con artists, think I’m an idiot. Not once, but twice in the last week, I’ve had to go, “Heeeeeeeey, now, that can’t possibly be true.” What’s especially upsetting here is both of them pertained to possible jobs, something of high importance at the moment. These jackaloons are getting my hopes up, and it’s leaving me a smidge more cynical than before. I might, just might, feel better about this if they weren’t so glaringly obvious in their attempts at duping me. Give me some credit. I mean, I sent you my resume, you know that I’ve been to school. Come on.

To properly highlight what level of criminals I’m dealing with here, let me show what has been sent to me.

First, I applied to a Craiglist ad (note: I’m VERY particular about which jobs I apply for on this website. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. But this one actually looked legit. That’s on me.) for a sales job at a “publishing company” in Queens. The very next day (which is a bad sign on it’s own, it should be weeks before you hear back) I received a phone call AND an email from someone at this company. The voicemail they left gave me hope. In retrospect, this makes me the angriest. The woman sounded professional, left a phone number with an extension, and sounded optimistic about meeting me. Awesome. But then the same woman sent me an email five minutes later, basically saying verbatim what she said in the voicemail. Why was she so adamant about meeting me if they were “interviewing several people today?” This was my cue to look into this company. I typed in the company name, leading me to an official website. Again, looked legitimate. It was a fully functional site with tons of news links and places to go. I breathed a sigh of relief, and was about to pick up the phone to call her back. But then I saw the second link on the Google search. It went to Ripoff Report, a site where scorned consumers can warn others of fraudulent companies. Fantastic. Here was one posting on the site:

“They run credit cards illegally all day w/o consent.  They will lie to you and say they record conversations and that you agreed and run your credit card.  If your CC is expired they will run the #’s and guess the expiration date, since CC companies do not give you a new number when your card expires.  The owners are rich as hell and brag about everything they have and buy.  They will hold employees paychecks, cheat you on taxes, and make you pay $50 a week for their crappy medical insurance.

P.S.  If you do not sell at least $2,000 a week, you get $0 salary!”

Wait, they’re is medical insurance? Where do I sign up?!? Getting my yearly colonoscopy would totally be worth getting arrested for fraud. No doubt.

This wasn’t the only entry complaining of these practices. There were dozens, all saying the exact same thing. This sales job entailed calling people everyday, typically senior citizens, verbally berating them until they agreed to sign up, and then charging them ten times more than they agreed to. I’m still not sure what it is they actually sell. I think it’s a Who’s Who of the business world type thing, but it’s full of nothing but retired people. Confounding stuff. So, yeah, I didn’t get back to them. Of course, she called again this morning. My guess is people don’t last long at this job, which is why she’s so desperate to get me on the phone. No dice, dollface. I certainly need a job, but I also need to not hate myself. Hit me up in a few months, I may have changed my perspective by then.

The final chapter on our journey to the center of stupidity involves Hotjobs, which I assumed was more legitimate than an open forum like Craigslist. Boy, was I wrong. The email I received in response to a clerical position was top-notch LOL stuff. I can’t do it justice, so here you go:

“Dear Candidate,

Our managers went through your resume and you have been picked for an alternative Job which is the Accounts receivable. This position is also a Business Management position only that you work from home till October 2009 when the new office in your state is open for business then you would be the Administrative Assistant there. Once orders are received and sorted we deliver the product to a customer. After this has been done the customer has to pay for the products but in most cases we make our clients prepay for orders or items they ordered for. About 90 percent of our customers prefer to pay through, Certified Checks or Money Orders drawn from the United State based on the amount involved why Only few decide on other forms of payment.

WHAT YOUR NEED TO DO FOR US

1. Receive payment from our Customers or Clients.
2. Cash Payment at your Bank or Deposit payment and let us know how long its going to take before it clears at the Bank.
3. Deduct 10% which will be your percentage/pay on Payments processed,  also you will be earning $1,000.00 for a Monthly payment at the end of every Month.
4. Forward balance after deduction of your 10% pay to any of the offices you will be instructed to send payment to.

You’ will have a lot of free time doing another job, because this is a part time job, you will get a really good income. But this job is very challenging and you should understand it. We are considering your application because you satisfy our requirements and we are sure you will be an earnest assistant till we start running our branch office in your state. For example if you recieve 4000.00 USD, your 10% should be 400.00 USD.

Thanks for your anticipated action. And we hope to hear back from you.

HR Director
***********

Note: This is also a medium of challenging the possibilities inherent on the online technology according to my research work titled “Staff development for online delivery: A collaborative, team based action learning model” you can check the website below for a more comprehensive reading of the article.

Please cite as: Ellis, A. and Phelps, R. (2000). Staff development for online delivery: A collaborative, team based action learning model. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 16(1), 26-44.”

So, this is the Russian mafia, correct? It has to be. The broken English, randomly capitalized words, the fact that I would be laundering money, etc. My favorite part is the very end. Having someone cash a check, take out ten percent, and then send it back is a “learning model?” Last I checked, that was third grade math and a possible felony.

This one was spotted as malarkey instantly. You lost me at “The job you applied to is taken, but hey, you sound like a second rate thug, how about you risk your freedom for us?” Shockingly, though, they did not ask for my bank account information. They’re leaving the criminal activity strictly up to me, which I appreciate. I mean, I’m wicked good at thievin’. Just ask the sheriff of Nottingham.

In the end, this is all very disheartening. The only responses I get from possible employers are not real. Well, not real in the “don’t want to go to jail” sense. I’ve come a long way from those days of sobbing over dead men in spandex, and it’s keeping my criminal record clean. But is it hurting my employment record? Screw it, I’ve always wanted to gain fifty pounds of muscle. Let’s go to jail and pound some iron!

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The Only Living Man-Child in New York – Part 2

While waiting at the baggage claim, I began to notice the people around me. I was surrounded by the type of diversity that could only be matched by Obama’s Cabinet. Hey, there’s a gathering of Hasidic Jews! Wow, there’s a guido with nine gold chains being swallowed by a thicket of chest hair! Oh my, an honest to goodness Muslim in a burka! I felt like Dorothy fresh out of the tornado-spun house. A member of the Lollypop Guild could have walked by and I wouldn’t have thought twice. The myth was true — there are people out in the world that don’t look like this:

I met a black guy once, I swear!

I met a black guy once, I swear! We called him "Sammy."

I know! It’s weird, right? I about called my entire extended family to say, “Hey, I found everyone that voted for Obama. I’ll get their addresses so you can send them nasty letters.” But, really, 29 straight years of not-so-much-diversity, and now, here I was, amongst the masses, yearning to be free and all that. But free of body odor and poor fashion sense? Well, they’re still working on that.

After a few hours of waiting, Matt and a few others from his flight were promised home delivery of their bags within 24 hours. This seemed to please him, well, enough as possible, so we could finally leave the airport and see the city I’d only seen in shitty Sarah Jessica Parker movies. We stepped into a cab waiting at the curb, and it was everything I’d hoped for: nice smells, friendly driver, hi-def television with Zagat reviews and sports highlights. Wait, what? What is this 21st century hokum? When I get into a cab, I want torn seats, unfortunate looking stains, and to be treated like an asshole. This is mandatory. Is it all true? Did Rudy really clean the place up? Will I never see an honest-to-goodness prostitute? Some dreams are meant to die, I suppose.

To top off our oddly unsatisfying cab ride, we discovered that Brooklyn is not the friendliest looking place at midnight. Those looking for a picturesque tour of the area should not venture out after dusk. The streets are empty and look more unwelcoming than a prison yard, not to mention all the stores are closed, shuttered off with steel gates and padlocks. It’s like wandering into a no man’s land. I half expected Snake Plissken to roll by and warn me about land mines.

You wanna get sprayed all over the map, baby? Keep moving.

You wanna get sprayed all over the map, baby? Keep moving.

It’s not that I expected people to be frolicking around with butterflies and baskets of puppies, high fiving each other as they passed. It simply never occurred to me that the entire city wasn’t a bustling Metropolis at all times, day or night. Add another notch to my clueless bumpkin belt, I suppose.

As we exited the cab with luggage in tow, Mickey greeted us from a second floor window with a slur I won’t use here (lest I offend my more sensitive readers), and it was at that point that I officially welcomed myself to the city. I expect this to be the first of many unpleasant names thrown in my direction, and, by George Jefferson, if I won’t welcome them all with open arms. We were finally there, after all the day’s frustrations.

We took a brief tour of Matt’s new apartment, which looks exactly how I thought it would (cramped but full of character), and headed out for a walk around the South Slope area. Again, not much to see that late in the evening, but you can still get a good idea of what the neighborhood has to offer: groceries, laundromats, bars, coffee shops, etc. I’m still not entirely sure what a bodega is, but I’m pretty confident they’re everywhere. Is this where one would go to purchase the drugs? These are the things I need to know, just in case I want to flame out gloriously, like a character in a Bret Easton Ellis movie.

Don't fuck up my karma, man. Don't fuck it up.

Don't fuck up my karma, man. Don't fuck it up.

I get the feeling I won’t go that route any time soon, considering we stopped into a bar after walking around awhile, and I had one beer and declared my night of drinking over. I’m more likely to overdose on potato chips than heroin. It’s just as expensive, but one leads to obesity and the other to fashion shoots. I’m on the wrong track here. What’s not going to help my waistline is the pizza. Our first meal was some authentic fuggin’ Brooklyn pizza, and after one bite, I declared a jihad against pepperoni. It’s all over for them; no end in sight. Hell, if one measly slice of pizza at 2 am is that good, then I’m certainly in for a treat once I stop eating peanut butter three times a day. Nothing against you, crunchy JIF, but there’s a war going on, and you are but a grunt in this army.

We called it a night after the beers and pizza, and I began my first night of several sleeping on an air mattress. My sublet was not to begin for a few days, so I was welcomed into the gentle bosom of the Dwyer/Gifford household. Thanks again, gentlemen. Your hospitality was greatly appreciated, as was the bosoms. One can never get enough of those. The next few days were to be spent getting to know the city and its many quirks. I went to sleep full of excitement and Parmesan cheese with visions of supermodels dancing in my head. Ahhh, dreams are important, kids. Never let them go.

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