So as a few of you may have noticed, last week I went straight from being cloistered in my condo like a masturbating food critic to a balls-out invasion of NYC.
Oh man, it was crazy. The parties, the half-naked flirting celebrities, people throwing money at me, it was completely out of control. I walked out of the airport, got into a taxi, the driver asked what I do and I said “I’m a freelance writer from Minnesota that blogs about travel and travel writing with a perpetual sub-text about what a cute, literary genius I am.” He shrieked, slammed on the brakes, hit a giant red panic button on the dash and the next thing I knew both back doors opened, Tyra Banks got in one side, Donald Trump got in the other and a Vanity Fair photographer flopped onto the hood and started snapping pictures through the windshield.
In only 48 hours I had a 10-volume autobiography book deal, two TV shows in development (a reality show about LP authors and a sitcom about six unusually attractive freelance writers living in a prohibitively expensive NYC apartment that all date each other), a bidding war between three movie studios to option my “This is What’s Pissing Me Off Today” series, three model girlfriends, my own clothing line (“Vagabond”), a three story brownstone in the Upper West Side, and a record deal for my new straight up gangsta rap CD “Where’s the Hostel Motherf*cker?”
Alas, very little of that is true, but NYC is indeed a happening place. I can see why people in certain industries feel as if they have to live there or die. While there, I arguably did more successful networking in one day than I have in the past year. And I didn’t even go there for business. Well, not at first.
My oldest friend Ben lives in a coveted part of Brooklyn with his 7 and 1/2 months pregnant wife. In August, I realized somewhat in a panic, that if I didn’t visit them before the baby arrived, I wouldn’t be able to visit them again for 18 years. No I am not kidding. I’ve got more than a little cross-wiring in my head and one of the downsides is that the sound of a child crying makes me wanna rip off both my ears, sauté them in garlic and eat them. And teenagers are just thankless, back-talking pains in the ass, so I ain’t going anywhere near their house during that time neither. So I quickly secured super cheap standby tickets and got the hell ready.
A week before the trip it occurred to me that perhaps I could do a little networking while I was there. I emailed my agent who, after some gentle reminding, remembered who I was and within about 30 minutes she had lined up two meetings for me with very important people. I can’t name names here, because I have a long history of jinxing myself. Though my attempts to keep mum on my exciting opportunities have also failed to bring positive results, so I’m splitting the difference here (as they say in the film industry I learned last weekend) and am sort of talking about it, but being coy and annoyingly leaving out the juiciest details. I’ll let you know how that works out for me.
The first meeting was with an editor and creative specialist for a large book publisher, which went great, eventually. I sat down to have coffee with the guy and I immediately started off by disappointing him with my best pitch. The enthusiasm drained from his face like a flushing public school toilet. Fortunately, we recovered from that and spent two full hours brainstorming and riffing off one another and building on ideas until finally in the last 15 minutes I hatched a killer hook that I’ve now been dispatched to put into book proposal form. No promises of course, but it was an encouraging meeting. We parted ways, both of us practically jumping for joy at our achievement, or maybe it was just all the coffee.
Then I walked about 12 blocks to Times Square to have lunch with Wendy Perrin, of Condé Nast Traveler fame, who fed me sushi (of course) in Condé Nast’s famous Frank Gehry-designed lunchroom (of course). She then took me on a tour, including the anticlimactic production area, the heart of the magazine, which was completely deserted when we passed through at 1:45 on a Friday afternoon. Clearly working for Condé Nast is a demanding job.
After a short break I headed to a wine bar to meet yet another book editor, who I have a special fondness for since he nearly killed himself trying (and failing) to get his crusty old boss to buy my memoirs a few years ago. We had a slightly less productive brainstorming session, but the upshot was that he totally dug the idea that the first editor passed on that morning and he gave me a great prompt for a possible future book project of Bryson-esque proportions.
Business accomplished, I spent most of the remainder of my trip drunk on wine. I staggered onto the subway and met Ben in midtown at a film party that was just ending. After making a generous meal of the leftover appetizers, we went out for drinks. By happy coincidence, our bartender was stinking drunk and plotting to quit her job within the week. What did this mean to us? Why free drinks all night long, of course! Who says partying in Manhattan is expensive? Apart from splitting a $14 cab ride home, sated with someone else’s appetizers and carrying my fifth free wine, thoughtfully poured into a to-go cup, I didn’t spend a dime all night!
The second night wasn’t as cheap. All three of our bartenders were discouragingly sober, not feeling particularly generous and in one case, barely able to make change without having a nervous breakdown. During this very expensive wine-a-thon, we rendezvoused with fellow LP author and honorary KB groupie Becky Ohlsen who it turns out I’m violently allergic to. We did as all LP authors do when they get together: talk about other authors. Since we’re all memorably nuts, this conversation took about five hours. Becky also made the, in retrospect, astute observation that most of the commenters on this blog are female, which I found vaguely perplexing seeing as how I manage to indulgently use the word ‘boobies’ in every other post.
Ben negligently waited until my final night in New York to take me to Lucali, the pizza place of the moment in Brooklyn. If he really loved me, he would have taken me there right off the bat, so I could return for lunch and dinner for the next three days, but he didn’t because he’s a cruel bastard. Ben – when I send your child the “Emergency Vehicle Sirens from Around the World Audio System (200 Watt – Dolby 5.1 – Collector’s Edition)” on his/her first birthday, you’ll know why asshole.
When informed that there was a 90 minute wait to get into Lucali at 6:30pm on a Sunday, I had a feeling that I was in for something special. And boy was I right. The pizza and calzone that we shared were heart-breakingly good. Even in Italy I’ve rarely enjoyed pizza of that caliber. Also, it’s a BYOB restaurant, so you can wash everything down with wine, without paying a 250% mark-up. The bonus was that we were served by the First Runner Up of the Brooklyn Teenaged Girl Accent Championships, who had further gotten into character by tanning herself into a new ethnicity and throwing in some eye-popping breast implants. Classic.
So, I’m back home now, agonizing over new business and wishing I had me a Lucali calzone with garlic and shallots. The good news is that I have several delectable opportunities now that, if I don’t fornicate them all up, may result in me becoming an enviable combination of Paul Theroux, Anthony Bourdain and Brad Pitt in the next few years. The bad news is that, as of this moment, I have absolutely no confirmed paying work in my future. None. Zilch. Nada. Diddly. Squat. And with the staggering six to nine month delays that occur between work and payment in freelance writing, even if I get work in a few weeks, I may not see a serious check again until I’m shopping for Ben’s unborn child’s first birthday present. Mark my words, the next nine months may make or break my career. It’d be extra exciting if it weren’t me.