I am sorry that I have been away. Both of my jobs hit the busy season with a bang. To all those from Write On Edge, previously known as The Red Dress Club, I apologize and pledge to be a better participant. To all of my other readers, I apologize for being totally lame.
New Memoir Tuesday! This weeks prompt was: Many of us remember life before the internet. We wrote letters instead of emails, used encyclopedias instead of Google, and went to parties that weren’t of the Twitter variety. We want you to recall those early memories of being online. There are two catches. Please do not use the phrase “I remember…” Also? No laundry lists. Try to focus on one small memory and share that with us. Tell us how it impacted your life and what it meant for you. In 600 words or less.
In the summer of 1997 I graced New York with the presence of another freshly minted playwright. There was no other place I conceived of living and New York had the added bonus of being as far away from my family as I could get without needing a work visa.
My first bartending job was at Otis on 51st and 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, long before gentrification. Otis was built on a vortex of insanity. There simply isn’t any other explanation for the crazy, bizarre and often amusing behavior of the patrons regardless of their background. Dock workers sat next to MTV PA’s, while advertising suits mingled with dancers and the super nerds of the IT world clustered together smartly making friends with the staff.
There is a plethora of stories. A young couple, so high on E having sex on the bench between the bathrooms that when I told them to stop, she said, “But, we aren’t done yet,” and was surprised when I lifted her off of him. He was wholly unembarrassed and simply tucked himself back into his pants following her upstairs.
The young woman who arrived so drunk that she sat at a table and mistook a candle for a cocktail, spilling wax all down her front. She kicked and screamed, literally, as we escorted her to a cab, that she knew the owner, Jimmy, and boy, would we hear about how we had treated her. Maybe she did know a bar owner Jimmy, but the bar she thought she was at was in Queens.
Every night I told new stories to a very select group of regulars until finally one of them asked, “Are you writing these down?” I wasn’t. “Well, you should. And I’ve started a website designed to help people find the real New York, it would be awesome if you wrote a column for me once a week.”
This was before the invention of the word blog. When, if you wanted a website you had to know how to write code and even so the websites were few and cumbersome. This was when I had more readers than I deserved, simply because I was there.
The internet is written in ink, and once an item is launched into cyberspace it can always be found again. Given the nuclear level of my anger and the quality of my writing at the time, that fact makes me wince. But it gave me an outlet, a voice that I desperately needed at a time when I was lost to an unresolved past with an unhealthy vodka habit and a denial of ambition.
I wrote that column for 3 years, 5 pages every week. When the project finally came to an end, I printed out all the stories and discovered that I needed two rather large binders to hold them.
Though the self that I was is one that I am glad that I left behind, my debt to the medium is hefty. That tenuous thread linking me to my writing was the only thing holding me back from self-obliteration. Though I would loath anyone to read those pages now, they are in fact a memoir of those years, raw, painful, but laced with poignancy. Those stories and this medium gave me the faith to try again, to write a more meaningful memoir when it mattered most. The price of learning the placement of every /. : and http was one worth paying.