Me in other media

Talking David Wright for The Curious Case of Sidd Finch


How to Stay Unemployed

Guy 1: "I guess the Republicans were wrong about global warming, huh!"
Guy 2: (Punches Guy 1 to death)

It is so hot in New York that the rules of society are starting to break down - I just saw a homeless woman start peeling her clothes off on Lexington Avenue, and the people around me looked on not with disgust but with envy. It is so humid that stepping onto the street is like stepping into a bowl of split pea soup if all the split peas were replaced by ass. Right, it smells bad too.

Hot girls in minidresses have hair plastered to their faces and an oil slick sheen. Their pursed lips tremble as they try to balance looking good with wilting in the midday sun. Men have pit stains that run down to their belts, plus back stains and chest stains. They waddle around like penguins on account of the rapidly pooling water in their crotches.

Also, I dont have a job.

That's not to say I haven't had interviews. They just haven't amounted to anything. Each job interview is preceded by hours of grooming, dressing and primping: I shower (at the gym, obviously), apply deodorant liberally and then swath my body in layers of formal clothing so I can attempt to trick people into hiring me. I got a summer hair cut, just like your dog did, and I spend careful minutes teasing my coif with a hairdryer and styling products, only to find it has congealed into a sticky helmet after just a few minutes outside. My freshly ironed shirts wrinkle on contact with the outside air, my suits trap my body heat until I start to braise and my undershirts are so sweaty that I actually cannot peel them off my body once I get home.

It's gross, and humiliating. Plus I still don't have a job.

Summer is absolutely the worst time to look for employment. In winter, I'd put on a three-piece flannel suit and wool socks, and I'd walk into offices with cheerfully flushed cheeks and Jack Frost nipping at my nose and everything would smell like gingerbread and my prospective employer would give me a job out of Christmas spirit. Now, I flop out of elevators like a fish on a boat deck and furiously wave my arms around to try to dry my body. I smile widely while sweat pours down my face and give slimy, crushing handshakes that feel like an octopus attack. Powerful men with cars and mortgages and salaries extend their hands to me, and I slowly slide a raw chicken breast into theirs. Their faces drop, and we go through the formality of the interview but secretly we both know that the position has already been filled by someone less clammy.

Surprisingly, I still don't have a job!

Of course, there are steps I could take to avoid this problem. GQ recommends I invest in a linen or seersucker suit, so I can look like a Miami Vice villan or Colonel Sanders, respectively. I could take taxis to interviews - those have air conditioning and I can say, "Oh, I just got back from Bangladesh!" to make me seem worldly and not be totally lying. I could stop trying and sit on the air conditioner all day rubbing ice on my body. Of course, this all requires money, which requires a job, which requires tastefully begging people, which requires not looking like you just ran a 5K. And then fell in a swimming pool with your clothes on.

Rejection is part of any job search and I am not letting it get me down. I know I have important and useful skills. In truth, I am a kind of magician - just like Harry Potter! - but instead of potions and dragons and Patronums, I conjure up language. Words. In fact, I'm doing my magic right. This. Second. NOW.

Apparently, this is not what employers are looking for. I was surprised at how fast security arrived, actually - maybe my interviewer was an actual magician and I offended him? Either way, I was back out on the street feeling like I had just walked into a dog's mouth, sweating like a Pope in the woods. (Wait is that how that phrase goes? I'm not Catholic.)

Truthfully, the most humiliating part of looking for a job is seeing young people with jobs. Hedge fund guys, analysts, marketing and fashion and PR types, all my age or slightly older, and all walking with their heads held high and a disgusting sense of pride and accomplishment. Oh, you have a job? Congratulations on NOT majoring in journalism! You want a medal? It's called Any Degree That Is Not A Journalism Degree.

These young professionals roam the streets of midtown Manhattan in search of custom salads and coffee - it fuels them for the day, the same way I am mostly fueled by Kraft American Cheese Singles and hatred. They crowd into subway cars and check their watches fretfully, while I play Angry Birds and wonder if it would worth getting sent to Rikers to have a job pressing license plates and folding laundry. Most infuriating of all, they congregate in the waiting areas of every office, talking about their latest exploits and having a work hard, play hard mentality that clashes with my sleep hard, cry often existence.

I was in an office this week - I won't say which, just that it is next to Bloomingdales and has the same first five letters as Bloomingdales and it was Bloomberg. I sat on a plush circular couch in the middle of a bustling employee funzone. Glass panels glowed pastel colors, flat screen TVs flittered with stock quotes, and glorious tropical fish peered at me from huge fishtanks. Even the fish had jobs.

A bunch of analyst types were sitting around, drinking their free coffee and eating their free muesli and yogurt and candy and, wow, Bloomberg is an incredibly cool office. The girls were wearing pantsuits and blouses and sorority necklaces and slutty bras, the boys all wearing their same khaki pants from that Sig Ep mixer sophomore year and trying not to listen to Dave Matthews. This actual conversation took place next to me:

Girl: I can't even believe he came. He was SO wasted.
Bro 1: Well it was $1 Long Islands at McFaddens last night.
Bro 2: NO WAY! Dollar Long Islands?
Bro 1: Dollar Long Islands dude.
Girl: Dollar Long Islands are crazy! McFads is on 42nd street right?
Bro 1: Yeah, only reason to go is for Dollar Long Islands though, seriously.
Bro 2: We should hit that place before the Hamptons this weekend! Get some Dollar Long islands!
Bro 1: Nah, I'm gonna drive the new Benz out instead.
Me: (Will never have any money, head explodes)
Girl: Ew, that unemployed guy just exploded on me!
Bro 1: Too many Dollar Long Islands!
(Bro 1 and 2 high five, have made more money during this conversation than I have in my entire life)

I wish I'd majored in Douchebag too. Then I'd have a job.

It's still hot out.


Me in other media

Here is my first post for The Curious Case of Sidd Finch, talking Mets.



The Funemployment Diet

I think every new college student knows about the "Freshmen Fifteen," the alleged amount of weight all incoming coeds gain after a year's worth of keg parties and late night pizza and unwanted pregnancies. By remaining cautiously aware, I was able to avoid gaining the freshman fifteen, thanks to sheer luck and appetite-sapping anxiety.

But of course, I had to go and gain a Senior Fifteen instead. Couldn't do the "mainstream" weight gain, had to blaze a trail instead. So hipster. Either way, I found myself graduated and fairly upset with how I looked in all of my grad pictures. GradPhotos.com sent me daily emails begging me to buy digital copies of myself looking like a bloated British judge with a non-powdered wig, and I graciously declined. I felt like I'd gone from Lost World: Jurassic Park Vince Vaughn to current day Vince Vaughn. All I wanted was Swingers Vince Vaughn.

So I decided to embark on a body changing summer plan. Hey, it's not like I'm busy. Here are my accumulated tips for how to get active when every day runs together and your bed is oh so inviting and oh look it's almost Shark Week!

DO: Join a gym. I know you have no money. Neither do I! But this is your one thing on which you have to splurge. Trust me, we'll have plenty of money saving tips later on. Beg your parents for the money, saying it's for a good cause (creating a grandchild eventually). Say you want to look in shape for job interviews! Your dad will smile broadly, and peel a crisp $100 off his money clip. He will ask you what interviews you have lined up, and you will pretend not to hear and say your phone is dying. He will remind you that you are in the same room.

DO: Make sure you join a crappy gym, full of ugly people, so that you don't feel shame every time you show up. I joined the 92nd St Y gym, which is full of older Jews who smell like mothballs. They are all very sweet and gentle, but it's the kind of gym where you just KNOW that the emergency medical kit gets used there once a month, minimum. Those heart paddles in the little box on the wall get juiced every day like in every episode of House.

DONT: Keep weighing yourself. That is the easiest way to get discouraged. Just do it the one time at the beginning - make sure to put down the bag of SmartFood Popcorn before you hop on the scale, because cheddar cheese flavored snacks can add up to two pounds to your weight and are not healthy even though they are called "Smart." If you INSIST on knowing your progress, design a fun science experiment to keep your mind sharp! How about filling up a bathtub, getting inside and marking on the side of the tub with a Sharpie your water displacement level! Then, remember your high school physics to try and figure out your weight. (Fun Fact: The RMS Titanic displaced 52,310 tons. You're probably less than that (probably))

DONT: Buy weightlifting gloves. They do not make you look more buff, sadly. They make you look like you're buying a pair of mittens in installments.

DO: Shower at the gym! There's free water, free shampoo and conditioner, free towels - did someone say heaven?! It's especially useful when your building shuts off the water every day to deal with an ever-worsening "emergency" that no one is very clear about. Actually...

DONT: Shower at the gym. This exact scenario happened to me the other day: there was no water in my building, and I figured I would shower at the gym. Standing naked in a shower room that is so old it was probably segregated back in the day, I was testing the water with my hand. Suddenly, a fully naked old man creeped up behind me and shouted, "IT LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE A LITTLE HESITANT TO GET IN!" I turned around slowly to see his weathered, wrinkly face contorted in a smile. I thought he had two sets of kneecaps until I realized what I was actually looking at were his balls hanging down between his knees. I tried to laugh and talk at the same time and ended up basically coughing on him. Then I showered as quickly as possible and ran out.

DO: Make sure you go as much as humanly possible. Be honest, you aren't busy with much else. None of the good shows are back on yet and Hulu is a wasteland right now. Netflix just raised its prices and you can't afford it anymore. You have the time, for the first and possibly only time in your life. Do an hour of cardio every day. Run in the park if it is not 100 degrees out. Swim at the gym pool for as long as possible, then go out and smoke weed and be a douchebag - the full "Michael Phelps."

DONT: Be embarrassed about being at the gym so much. Because my gym is a Y, I assume there are plenty of transient young people staying there as well - young Jews from the old country here to see America for all its splendor. Freshly showered and in clean clothes, I was standing in front of the Cafe when the man behind the counter said: "Excuse me young man, do you live here?" "NO!!" I shouted, a little too forcefully. "I have a home!" He looked at me in confusion, then sort of diagonally at the floor, like I had embarrassed him. I smiled, but it was too late. I paid for my terrible Greek yogurt and left.

DO: Eat yogurt. It just sounds healthy, right? It MUST be, in that case. Greek yogurt tastes terrible and has 0 fat and 100 calories, so eat away! Spice it up with some fresh fruit, or honey, or try eating it on a bridge or something. Anything to distract from the taste.

DO: Smile at everyone. Not in a creepy way, just in a friendly way that makes people think you aren't starving and exhausted and depressed. Maybe you'll trick yourself into not being any of those things! I have been smiling at everyone I see in the hopes that my winning grin will convince someone to offer me a job on the spot. I envision an older man in a seersucker suit and a straw boater hat, who is so impressed by my pleasant demeanor that he tells me he likes the "cut" of my "jib" and tells me that he wants me to write for his magazine "immediately." That reminds me...

DO: Make up elaborate fantasies at the gym. Being on the elliptical for an hour is incredibly boring, especially when the little TV screens are broken or the only thing on is Divorce Court, in which case broken would be better. Dream about the life you will lead once you get that big job at the hedge fund, or the law firm, or the TV network or the circus or the MIR International Space Station. ProTip: Sometimes you will need a book or magazine to pass the time. Magazines can be easily concealed in clothing from doctor's offices, therapist's offices, hotel lobbies, etc. Books can be stolen from the library.

DO: Stop drinking so much. My ninth grade biology teacher told us about beer bellies and how calories from liquids are basically converted directly into fat, while you are still standing at the bar. She also made me touch a Madagascar hissing cockroach after I told her cockroaches were my number one fear. So, kind of a mixed bag from her.

DONT: Pay for drinks. That's a great way to cut down on your drinking: find friends who are bartenders, or waitresses, or own vineyards or whatever. Go out drinking with them the two or three times a month they can tolerate you, and you will have access to all the drinks you want for free, only less frequently than before. ProTip: When they ask you what you want, your guilt will momentarily distract you, so just say you'll have whatever they are having. That way their bartender friend only makes one big batch, and you get to drink stupid things with egg whites and St. Germain in them. This will discourage you from drinking in the future.

DONT: Eat pizza every day. I did this for the first month or so - rookie mistake!
DO: Eat healthy! Pizza is so cheap and delicious, but it is the opposite of that terrible healthy yogurt you ate for breakfast and probably screwed your hour at the gym. Try eating salad - it's healthy, it often has chicken and cheese in it, and it is full of vitamins and minerals that will cancel out the burrito you have for dinner (Note: I am not sure that's how salad works).

DO: Eat only what you can steal and grift from people. Art openings or dinner parties are a great way to load up on food. Drop in on that family friend or aunt you haven't called in forever! If she's not home, jimmy her door open with your MetroCard and raid that fridge. Wait, she only eats cottage cheese and salmon dip? Ugh. Break down and call your parents, then slip words into conversation like "I'm hungry for work" and "I'm starving to get started with a new job" and "I've only eaten ramen noodles for the last few days, uncooked." They'll get the hint.

Finally, DO: Stick to it. You need something in your life right now that forces you to get up somewhat normally, put on different clothes and interact with other people. The other day, I went NINE HOURS without talking to another person. Daytime hours. I hadn't opened the blinds in days. I hadn't shaved, so my patchy beard made me look like a dog who had just had surgery. An unknown number popped up on my phone, and the woman on the other end would not, could not accept that Andre was not there. I wished her well, then went to the gym to see if I could find that old man to talk about showers again.


Today's Ben Franklin

I spent the last week in London, doing the usual tourist spots. After a while, the historic spots seemed to fold into one another - it was simply impossible to comprehend the age of some of these monuments. Westminster Abbey is so old that it contains a replica of an original memorial statue is older than the entire United States. There are holes in the walls from World War II bombings, and bones under the floor older than the Magna Carta. In the British Museum, I found the Elgian Marbles endlessly fascinating: hand carved pieces of limestone, with exquisite detail, all older than Jesus and Muhammad.

But the most interesting spot was more off the beaten path. There is a tiny house just off of Trafalgar Square, with original wood floors and walls and staircases from the early 1700s, that once housed Benjamin Franklin for 16 years of his remarkable life. It has been kept in pristine condition, and the tour guide assured me that the only real change made since Franklin lived there was replacing the windows that had been blown out during the Blitz.

The breadth of Franklin's life work is overwhelming, and well worn for anyone who has taken middle school history. Bifocals, the Franklin Stove, the Declaration of Independence, and most famously the kite experiment. He was a scientist, a politician, a philosopher, a writer, and one of the most important figures in American history.

At the end of the tour, there is a little questionare sheet that poses a strange question: who is today's Ben Franklin?

I was stumped. There is simply no modern politician who boasts as impressive a resume as Franklin. It seems obvious, of course, that no one would be able to approach his accomplishments given that we live in an age that can severely limit creative output. We did not have the luxuries and distractions that Franklin had, and we waste a considerable amount of time in general (I am super guilty of this).

But I thought some more about the question. Would a modern day Ben Franklin even be able to exist in today's political arena? Truthfully, the scientific endeavors would be a detriment to his hypothetical political career. For whatever reason, most Americans like their politics with a side of religion, hold the science. There seems to be more political capital gained by eschewing what is new and groundbreaking and sticking to what is known and safe - that's basically the philosophy of the Republican Party at its core. Whether it's George W. Bush opposing stem cell research, or the constant furor over evolution in text books, or the opposition to nuclear and wind and solar power in favor to good old fashioned coal, there is a constant backlash against science in the political arena.

New ideas are treated with skepticism until it is clear they will be politically advantageous. Benjamin Franklin thought up insane new ideas, like harvesting energy from the environment. Tim Pawlenty thinks that scientists don't know if homosexuality is a choice or not. Republicans seem to reject all science and logic, all the time, except of course for the Space Shuttle program (the most cowboy-esque of the sciences).

If Ben Franklin wanted to run for office today, he would have to put down the test tubes and pick up a Bible. He'd have to cut his hair and lose weight Mike Huckabee style. Of course, Franklin was never president for a reason - maybe he knew he was too weird to hold high public office.

The biggest issue with presidential campaigns is the constant microscope under which these candidates find themselves. It forces reasonable people like Mitt Romney to abandon his fairly stellar health care program and attack "Obamacare." It forces Tim Pawlenty to attack his fellow candidates and then back down meekly. It forces Michele Bachmann to pretend her husband isn't gay. It forces the moderate Republicans to cozy up to the Tea Party, and forces the radical Republicans to never budge from their positions even in the face of overwhelming logic (cough John Boehner cough). Republicans will not change their minds, because then they are just like the flip flopping Democrats they love to attack.

While in London, I spent about 3 hours in one of my favorite places: the Churchill War Rooms. Basically, during the Blitz Churchill ran the entire war from a tiny bunker underneath a nondescript government building a few blocks from Big Ben. The roof was reinforced with steel and poured cement, but the feeling was that the whole network of tiny rooms and pipes and winding hallways was about one direct hit away from collapsing.

The War Rooms now feature a fairly sizable museum devoted to Churchill's whole life, spanning his unhappy childhood to his journalism career (!!!) to his political failings to his triumph in WWII and his immediate defeat as Prime Minister. He also lived an incredibly full life, is an icon and a badass and has some terrific quotes attributed to him - much like Ben Franklin.

One quote, in letters 8 inches high on a big glass wall lit in neon pink and yellow, resonated with me: A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

Of course, Franklin had a more succinct summation of politics.

"The first mistake in public business is the going into it."