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No Reason for Downers

November 4, 2009

15842_204318400448_518800448_4316135_3784453_nLast February I lost my job and last night I helped a blind drummer get a cab on the corner of Graham and Metropolitan. The two instances are related, but I’ll back up to nine months ago when I was simultaneously cursing up a storm, doing the international sign for “Yes!” and drinking like a seventeen year-old who’s just discovered cider.

In 2007 I took a job at a small company as a copywriter. Now, because it was a small company, it was explained to me that I’d be doing three jobs: writing, reception-ing and taking care of my boss’ “other things.” These other things weren’t expanded upon but he’d mentioned an idea of his that he’d like to see happen, so I assumed these things would essentially be pet projects. I took the job at what now seems like an unable-to-be-lived-on salary –– and actually took a financial hit because I made more money bartending –– with the caveat that I would eventually be moved to full-time copywriter.

It turned out that by “other things” my boss had meant “you get to be my personal assistant and open Diet Cokes for me.” For nearly a year I juggled heading up email campaigns, churning out ad ideas, overhauling the sales materials and taking on the thrilling job of writing the new instruction manual all while answering phones, disposing of dead mice, fetching sugar-free Red Bulls and trying not to flip over my desk and tell my boss what I really thought of him. I finally got put on copywriting full-time (though I didn’t get the title I felt I deserved) just in time for the company to decide they had to make cutbacks due to the economy. And just when my salary finally became able to be lived-upon.

I went on a handful of interviews right out the gate but so did about half a million other sad, bearded semi-writers. Couldn’t get a bartending job because bars were flooded with the thousands of resumes left by double thousands of unemployed hands, didn’t have rent money, so I went on unemployment. I hadn’t been this broke since I moved to New York in ’05. Awesome. That was in March. I couldn’t really tell you exactly what’s happened since then. But this morning I woke up in my friend’s sweet apartment in the city; they’ve got a dog and steam shower. My girlfriend and I just got back from a trip to New Orleans. In a couple hours I’m heading to Williamsburg to work at the tattoo shop where I’ve been part-timing, and Friday, after doing some work for Bryant Park/34th St. Partnership, I’m going upstate with some friends to hang out in the woods and drink like a seventeen year-old who’s just discovered that cider is more like beer’s inbred cousin and whiskey is like it’s hot, immortal mom that is really, really smart. Next week is tattoos and haircuts day, plus some friends are in town, plus Dave does some more work on my chest, plus I have work every day if I want it. And to top it all off, I get to interview Stanley Moskowitz for Inked, a magazine that for whatever reason keeps tapping me for what works out to be about an article an issue.

Last night after dropping off a few things at the apartment, I went to get on the train and didn’t really notice the blind guy on the corner. A biker rode by him and he turned with his cane and said “excuse me?” raising his hand and eyebrows in the direction of the noise. The biker looked and ignored him. I turned around from the stairs to the subway and walked over and asked what was up. The blind guy told me he’d missed his stop and was late for band practice and asked if I would help get a cab. I said I would and while we talked for a minute, I hailed a cab and led him over. The cab abruptly sped off. So we walked back to the curb and I called Northside. While we were waiting he told me that he was a drummer. He lives in south Jersey but has been making the trip up here once or twice a week for the last month or so because he hooked up with a new band. He takes the train from New Jersey to Penn Station to Brooklyn. He plays the fucking drums. We waited some more and his phone rang.

“Ah, this is gonna be Steve,” he predicted, taking the phone out of his pocket and running his thumb over the buttons. “Hey dude, I’m so sorry, I missed my stop I’m gettin’ a cab and I’ll be there in ten.” He hung up his phone and sighed. We picked up the conversation where we left off and right then the Northside car pulled up. I led him over and got the door for him. I told him to have a good night and I rode the train back into the city smiling the whole way.

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