Of course it was a clichéd reason. The same reason every wannabe writer kid comes to New York City. I was born there and spent most of my years in the area surrounding it, but I never actually lived in the city, and there is a discernible difference. My parents pushed this point: that when you get to a certain age, usually in your early twenties, you should live in a city so you can gain a further appreciation of everything.
It was the DWI that did it. During the Limbo Year, it was an actual miracle that I managed to get away with just one, but when I did get the one in August 2004 I immediately resigned myself to getting the hell out of town. Slippery slope, blah, blah, and all of that, but if there is any better signifier to show that you are in fact becoming a Townie it’s getting a DWI. Very simply, I knew I was better than that and spent the next two months focusing on Marist’s college alumni program and found a job as a graveyard shift copy editor at PR Newswire.
I have always behaved like a child and I have always been a pretender, behaving in such a way to give off the illusion that I am whatever bullshit my mouth is spouting and leaving home and heading to the city became about actually making the bullshit a reality. That’s all the Limbo Year was: pretending to follow a formula that others had followed before me. Which mostly consisted of partying constantly, going from one shitty job to another, and writing under the influence. I thought that was all a part of the “life education of the writer” the path that all wannabes and a few professionals inevitably follow and have to go through to reach the promised land. It actually makes me physically upset realizing these words now, knowing that I actually thought this concept was true. What a fucking waste. The remaining six years after moving was all about this as well. Everything I did was meant as life education to be used as fodder for writing. And I used it. Clearly. If it sounds like a betrayal of the soul, it’s because it is and there is no denying it. I was pretending the whole time, but it was not until after my thirtieth birthday did I come to realize that.
I had some time to kill in my first week in the city, so I visited my friend Patrick who ran the HMV in Times Square, which was closing down. It was the last HMV in New York City and UK-based company was shutting them all down across America in what would just be the start of the long and slow death of the mega media stores of the HMV variety. Eventually the iconic Union Square Virgin Megastore would be taken over by Gotham staples: a Citibank and a Duane Reade. How depressing, but still a nice return to form for the local music peddlers that you can find clinging to life near Bleecker Street or worse—Williamsburg.
Anyway, it was the HMV in November 2004 that I met Pat and everything in the store was seventy-five percent off, so I grabbed the remaining Beatles albums I needed (Hard Day’s Night and the Let It Be remasters) and the first two (and only good) seasons of Family Guy. (This was before the show came back on the air). Afterwards we all went out to the bar, and this was my very first bar experience in my new life in New York. The place: Deacon Brodie’s in Hell’s Kitchen. I found the neighborhood to not be hellish at all, but actually really Yuppie.
I felt like I arrived and I was talking about writing and how difficult it must be to write with all of this distraction when a guy in a khaki blazer, black dress pants, and black shirt leans over to me at the bar and says: “It could just be fuel, you know.”
The guy had intense eyes and saucer shaped furrows beneath his hazel irises. In front of him was a Guinness and a scotch and some loose pages he was doodling on depicting fairly sexy ladies on stripper poles. He looks rightatme, very intensely, and says it again: “Or you could use the city as fuel. Take down something you see everyday. That’s the beauty of this place, it guarantees you will see something that you wouldn’t see in any other city. So take some time to take it down.”
I was semi-drunk, so I was primed to listen to this kind of philosophical discussion, I was so mesmerized I told him he’s right: “Earlier today, I saw a cop car driving into oncoming traffic in Times Square.”
“See?” he asked. “Exactly. Now get yourself a notebook to carry around with you and take a moment for yourself to take down what you saw because eventually you’ll get used to the truly amazing everyday shit that goes down in front of a New Yorker’s eyes everyday, and if you don’t train yourself to notice them—eventually you won’t and you’ll be loosing great material.
“Yeah,” I nod at him. “I’m Dave,” extending my hand.