My Roof Tile Disease

A week ago, I woke up in the middle of the night and thought I was dying.

My stomach felt as if someone had stabbed me with a blade, then the metal had melted and spread through skin. Furious Googling lead me to believe that it was not appendicitis, since the appendix is on the right side and this was my left side. But being alone in my new apartment lead me to some light whimpering and thoughts of the police finding my bloated body several days later.

Well, hopefully not TOO bloated - I did just start a new diet (more on that soon!).

I finally gave in to fitful sleep, and woke the next day feeling tender all up my side. It was a strange, tingling feeling that faded somewhat once I began my day, but still lingered later that night. The next night before bed, I walked past the mirror and found my side covered in small, red bumps.


This lead to another night of furious Googling on the topic that strikes fear in the heart of every New Yorker - bed bugs. I moved into a new apartment about two months ago, and upon signing my lease the property manager flippantly informed me that there had been outbreaks in the building, though not on my floor. It gave me pause, for certain, but not enough to throw six months of work down the drain. Now I was staring the evidence in the face, in the form of itchy red bites circling my ribs. Still half-naked, I threw my sheets to the ground, searching in vain for the tiny telltale signs of foreign invaders. I probably looked like a heroin addict looking for invisible bugs, but no matter.

Another fitful night of sleep, and I finally gave in and called my parents. I whispered the double-b phrase into the phone, and practically felt my mother disowning me from across the receiver. Where would I live? I wondered out loud, imagining me spreading my disease from home to home, unwelcome by all.

I would have to burn all my belongings and scour my skin with harsh chemicals, then begin a new life as the Wandering Jew. My mother suggested a doctor's visit before I began cleansing my possessions with fire, and I agreed.

Now, one of the strange things about being a post-grad - and there are many - is that your pediatrician will abandon you and you will be forced to get a grown-up doctor. I thought I was young and invincible, and so I have neglected to do the adult thing and get a checkup in, oh, 20 months or so. This from a person who was used to bi-annual checkups and any number of drop-ins thanks to sinus infections, or sprained muscles, or hair in new places. I begged my way into an appointment at my old office, and found myself sitting in an exam room Sunday morning decorated in cuddly animals, discretely scratching myself.

A nurse entered to take my temperature. She asked if I wanted to get my weight as well; we locked eyes and laughed. There would be no weight taken today, thank God. I suppressed my urge to ask for a lollipop, and waited for my death sentence.

I began to try and look on the bright side of bed bugs. First of all, new clothing. Second of all, don't they send over cute little bug-sniffing Beagle puppies when you call the exterminator? That would probably help alleviate some of the disgusting reality of the situation. And finally, burning things is incredibly fun and I bet my new 55-inch TV would explode if I burned it while it was still plugged in to the outlet.

The doctor entered, interrupting my puppy/flames fantasy. She took one look at my skin, and told me I had shingles.

Uh... what? I nearly hugged her in excitement. "You're the happiest I've ever seen someone with shingles!" she exclaimed.

I skipped out of the office, and immediately stopped skipping because HOLY SHIT EVERYTHING HURTS. Shingles, for those who don't know, is basically a relapse of chicken pox times a million. The chicken pox virus never leaves your body - it simply stays dormant in your nerve endings, waiting for a compromised immune system or stress or old age to allow it to spring forth in itching, painful sores.

Remember, these aren't little pock marks on your skin - it's your freaking nerve endings opening up, resulting in the strangest, unrelenting pain you'll ever experience. It feels like I got blackout drunk 3 days ago and someone bashed me in the ribs with a baseball bat. I'm sure the bat hurt a lot, but for now it's just the after effect, and it won't go away.

It's also super gross looking, and itchy, and makes sleeping a pain and general moving around a chore. My grandfather called me on the phone and told me when he had it, it felt like someone had jabbed him in the side with a hot poker and was twisting it.

Oh yeah, old people. Shingles is mainly a disease of the old folks, though I do have two friends that got it in their 20s. Still, I have asked the rhetorical question every night since my diagnosis while lying on my couch - why me? I don't think I was particularly stressed, or immuno-compromised. I don't think I'm secretly 75 years old, although I do love CBS sitcoms and complaining. So who, in their divine plan, thought it would be cool to give me a literal pain in my side?

These are the problems of the underemployed: Days spent fruitless job-searching, nights spent moaning and bitching and telling people not to touch me. If only I were busy reporting, or writing, or interviewing, I'm sure this never would have happened. But people straight up refuse to answer my emails or give me money in exchange for services. And now no one particularly wants to physically touch me, either. I have never felt so unloved.

But the Giants are in the Super Bowl, so that kinda helps!

Also I'm super contagious so don't let me hug your baby.


The Worst Story Ideas Ever

Someone asked me recently why I haven't tried writing a book, and I told her I simply haven't had the right idea yet. A book is a big thing, with many pages, most of which have words on them. The best books are usually about one idea, sustained over those many pages. Given that at this exact moment I am watching baseball, texting, watching an episode of South Park and writing, let's just say that my attention span is not exactly suited towards the 500 page novel.

Of course, that doesn't mean I've never tried. To the contrary, I have had a few different stretches in my life where I've made concerted efforts at long form writing: a play here, a short story there, a movie script or piece of fiction. Of course, the majority of my ideas are just that: ideas, jotted down in notebooks or Word files or Blackberry notes, all of them born in moments of creativity and all of them forgotten within moments.

Why? Well, I come up with good ideas at the absolute worst moments. The shower is my number one place, where surging water and wet hands makes recording the ideas impossible. "I'll just remember it for when I get out," I'll think, and somewhere between toweling off and blow drying my hair the idea is lost forever. (Yeah, I blow dry my hair. Deal with it.)

Number two on that list? While I'm asleep. I have strange, detailed dreams almost every night, and i often jolt awake at 5 or 6 AM with what seems like the perfect story idea. Just last week, I rolled over in the middle of the night and began formulating an absolutely fantastic concept for a political thriller. Or a sports movie? Or some kind of romantic comedy? Either way, I told myself over and over again I would not forget the idea and by the time I woke up the only thing I could remember is telling myself over and over again that I would not forget the idea.

The other place I always think of ideas is the subway, which certainly lends itself to writing ideas down but I can tell you from experience that the ideas almost always concern the subway. Here's a great one, found in my Blackberry under a file called Story Ideas: "guy is pooping in grand central, witnesses murder, only thing he sees are shoes."

Next stop: Pulitzer Prize.

That idea may be astoundingly bad, but it is certainly not the only one. Here are some of my greatest hits, revealed for the first time:

A zombie movie where the big twist is that all the zombies are wearing makeup and doing performance art. This one is based on a dream, and is simply not a good idea. I remember that in the dream I was very pissed off as my zombie friends began removing their makeup and congratulating each other on a great show, and actually spent much of the next day mad at certain people without telling them.

Verbatim, from my notes: "black poet enforcer for drug gang, rides on subway writing in notebook. Crossed out poetry – city lights, water bottle on gun as silencer."

--This stemmed from an actual man I saw on the subway, and I invented a whole backstory for him while walking up Lexington Avenue at 3 in the morning. Clearly based on "Precious," which is based on the novel Push by Sapphire. Apparently I thought that using a Poland Spring bottle as a silencer on a pistol was enough to carry this movie to box office gold.

"group of guys together, one of them gets bitten by a snake. He is a native American, they have to take him back to his burial ground for some great treasure as reward. He keeps talking about a key. They realize he is the key once they get him back to the camp. Elders say the reward is the land, bunch of worthless land but actually has oil."

--This is just a terrible idea. I thought of this in the shower at school, after watching True Grit and 3:10 to Yuma, and playing too much Red Dead Redemption. In this idea, I assume all Native Americans must return to their burial ground in the same way elephants go to an elephant graveyard. This is not, to my understanding, true.

"Man was forced to hide something, now anytime he tries to remember hes in intense pain and destroys things around him. Some kind of brain implant, set in the future. TV reports are always on about missing president’s daughter, but it’s a red herring."

--Some kind of Memento homage? Funny, I've never actually seen Memento. I'm glad I thought of the idea of the president's daughter - if I ever do write this, sorry for the spoiler alert.

There are many other, but some of them I still want to write. If these are my rejected ideas, just imagine how good my OTHER ideas must be!

By the way, if you see any of these at your local movie theater in a year, I am suing the crap out of everyone.


The Cat Fashion Show

I was reminded several times this week that in Anchorman, Veronica Corningstone's first assignment is to cover a cat fashion show.


Well she ended up the co-anchor of World News. Maybe I can land somewhere around there too.

I can't give too many details of the actual event - ask me in person because it was completely hilarious - but I have to say this entire experience has reinvigorated my faith in the human condition. Seriously, the fashion show was THAT good.

Basically, this all came out of five random emails to five people I'd never met, who either liked my idea or liked my resume or had nothing better to do than indulge some kid fresh out of college who is desperate for employment. In short, it was a series of random events that culminated in one happy boy dancing in his underwear on a Saturday morning. I don't know where he came from, but I quickly hurried him out of the apartment and that's when I saw the paper.

ANYWAY, there will be more stuff coming soon, but this cat fashion show just dominated my life for the last week in a way that only a cat fashion show can dominate.


More Coming Soon, BUT

In the meantime:


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.