Monday, 4 May 2009

Livin' In New York Is A Lot Of Work, Man. Even When You're Not Workin'

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

I woke up late today, about noon. I kept on thinking that I would just wake up when my body wasn't sore anymore. If I'd waited for that I wouldn't have gotten up. So when Marie text me from work I finally got up as I had to get the day going. I had a lot to do -

This (being tired) all started last week on Tue when I went to work for a flower event company that one of Marie's friends works for. The work day wasn't that difficult or that long - we worked from 9:30 to 5:30. And the event wasn't that stressful. But it was a start to long and stressful that was to come.

After the event I met up with Marie who was just getting out of the office and we went to buy me some clothes at a thrift store for a surprise birthday party that night for the woman (Marc Chagall's granddaughter) who owned the company, Fleurs Bella, that I'd worked for that day. I couldn't go to the party in my work clothes, and Marie and I didn't want to go all the way back to Brooklyn (we were in Manhattan, as was the party) as we knew that if we got home we would stay there. And Marie felt it was important to show up at the party as she does work sometimes for the company too.

We got the clothes after walking to two different thrift stores and trying on a hundred different items, and got to the party late and missed the surprise. Around midnight I asked Marie, then pleaded with her (as she was just getting into things) if we could go home as we both had to work for her event company in the morning, at 9:30am at their warehouse in Jersey City, which meant that we'd have to get up at 7:00am to take the subway then the Path train in order to make it on time. And neither me nor Marie are morning people. We enjoy getting up early about as much as I imagine we'd each enjoy being sprayed by skunks and porcupines simultaneously. So I got her out of the party and we made it home and made it to work on time the next day. We cut out of work a little early because we had tickets that Marie's friend Yoko (who works at Fleurs Bella) had put on will call to BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), courtesy of Fleurs Bella as they do all the events at BAM, and would be doing the event that night which was an abstract dance homage to the abstract painter Raushenburg. Anyway, Marie and I raced to BAM - literally running down the street from the subway and into the building - picking up our tickets and walking into the grand hall just before the doors closed. The seats were on the fourth row amidst a somewhat stuffy and older crowd - the woman next to me put her hand on her leg between mine and hers and slightly pushed mine away at the start of the show. I was packed in like a sardine, and once the performance started I thought that I might fall asleep and wished that I had swine flu so that I could go home and have a beer and go to bed. At one point I thought I might be sick as something was building in my gut - I hoped that it was Ebola to give me a reason to go home. The whole thing was a little too abstract. At the intermission I tried to get Marie and her friend Molly who'd also been given a ticket to just go across the street with me to get a beer and call it a night as the line for a drink in the BAM lobby was a mile long and I was starting to fade. But Marie wanted to hang in there as a show of appreciation to her friend who'd gotten us the tickets. By the time her and Molly'd gotten our drinks the lights were flashing indicating that the performance was about to start up again and I chugged my beer in one gulp to the awe of one of the black women who was an usher, telling her that you had to be drunk to watch the performance, to which she nearly buckled over laughing, saying "I know that's right". After the performance we hung around for a little bit at the after party that Marie's friend'd helped set up the flowers for and me and Molly raided the cheese tray, and downed a couple of drinks, then called it a night as I dragged Marie out of the party - her grumbling the whole time as I hadn't let her finish her drink - as I had to be up at four the next morning to make it to the warehouse in Jersey City to drive the 24' Penske truck to the swanky hip hotel in Manhattan in the meat packing district, The Standard, where Marie's company was setting up for an event the next day.

I was the truck driver for the event which meant that I would also be helping to facilitate the load in and direct the Labor Ready crew that the company hires as manpower and mules.

Me and the supervisor and another one of our guys took the '24 Penske and '14 box truck to the city at around 6am.

The Labor Ready crew met me and the supervisor, the 24' Penske truck, a 14' box truck and our other guy at the job site at 7:00am. The Labor Ready crew consisted of five younger black guys. It was our job to get the two trucks that were stuffed to the gills wit furniture, bars, chandeliers, etc... into the event space on the third and fourth floors of the hotel and set up by the time the party (which was a birthday party for a famous photographer) happened that night 9:30pm. No problem, right? Wrong. Always a problem. For one, the hallway that we had to load into that lead to the freight elevator was narrow, being painted, being used by the construction workers who were working on the top floors of the hotel, and was also being used by the other crews that were doing the event - the lighting crew and the party rental crew. It was a cluster fuck. On top of that, the construction crew, who was union, had control of the freight elevator as per their contract with the hotel, or some union type shit like that. What I'm gettin' at is that the elevator was a giant fucking headache. The union construction guys had all the floors locked out of use from the elevator that they weren't using, which meant that the only way we could access the floors that we wanted to go to was by being in the elevator and sending it to the third or fourth floor, but only after the union guys had gone to their floors. And if the union guys didn't want our stuff in the elevator on a certain trip, we couldn't use it - they had priority. On top of that once we finished unloading the two trucks I would have to take the 14' box truck back to the warehouse in Jersey City to pick up all of Marie's flowers, pots and vases, which there was a lot of. And the Labor guys are only making minimum wage and aren't motivated by that money to go above and beyond the call of duty - which I understood from my Labor ready stint a few weeks before. So I knew that it would be a bit of a challenge to make it all happen on time. But that's the nature of the job. The supervisor for the event (a good friend of Marie's) set up shop in the main room where the event would be held and began directing traffic as the stuff started to slowly make it's way up the elevator. He kept a couple of Labor Ready guys up there with him and had them unpack and place all the stuff as I tried to get all the stuff off the trucks, through the line of people and gear that ran down the freight hallway and out the door onto the sidewalk where we were beginning to stage all of our stuff that came off the trucks, all the while circumnavigating the hotel staff who used the door and hallway that we were loading through, including the kitchen staff whose waiters were carrying food in and out and through the hall all day long. It was a logistical nightmare. But we got all the shit off the trucks and up to the event floors.

Then I went to Jersey City with the 14' box truck and a small Labor Ready guy who was worth a shit - useless - that the supervisor wanted me to sign out and let go once the truck was packed, which I gladly did. He was just in the way. Once we got all of Marie's stuff loaded up and strapped onto the truck - barely - she drove the company work van to the job site and I took the box truck. When we got to the event it was around 3:30pm and things were starting to get hectic.

People and shit were everywhere.

The Labor Ready guys were starting to snap, event staff tensions were running high, and we were all running around like fucking chickens with our fucking heads cut off trying not to kill one another as the event coordinators changed last minute details and sent everyone into a tissy. It was controlled chaos for sure. But we did it.

At 9:30 when the event was sufficiently put together the supervisor and I drove the Labor Ready guys back to Jersey in the work van to drop them off at the Labor Ready office. From there the supervisor and I went to the warehouse to pick up a few things that I'd need for the strike (the cleanup) in the morning.

At 10:30pm I was done and on my way back to the city to find Marie who'd gone to dinner with Yoko who'd been doing the flowers with her. I thought they'd gone somewhere near the hotel, but had in fact gone to a place off of 3rd Ave away from the meat packing district. I got lost, then found parking in the madness of a Thursday night in full swing. By 11:30 I was having dinner with the two. By the time we got home it was about 1:00am. I made it to bed by 1:30am and was shocked when my alarm went off at 4:00am. I nearly didn't get out of the the shower, but the phone rang looking for me and I was out the door by 5:30 and on my way to the job site.

My main Labor Ready guy who I'd relied on to help me direct and corral the other Labor Ready guys the day before was waiting for me in the Penske truck when I showed up at 6:00am despite having had worked for nearly 29hrs straight the days before, as he had come from another job directly before coming to work for us. The night before when we'd dropped him off at the Labor Ready office he said that he'd be there the next morning as he said he needed to make rent. I didn't quite believe him as his eyes were so blood shot tired that they looked like they were on fire. But he was there at six in the morning in the Penske truck. At first I thought that a homeless guy had spent the night in the truck as all I could see where his dreadlocks and I was pissed for having left the door unlocked, and then relieved to see that it was my main man when he popped the door for me.
Just then the other Labor Ready guys showed up, and four others from Marie's event company showed up and we got things going. Once I filled up the 14' box truck, despite the union construction guys best attempts to thwart my every freight elevator ride, I took the box truck back to Jersey where me and two Labor guys unloaded it into the warehouse then drove back to the event site along with the supervisor from the day before, who we picked up at his place in Jersey City, as he wanted to see the progress and take a couple of our guys to get some materials for the next event coming up a few days later.

When we got to the site at 10:30am progress was looking slow and grim as most of the stuff was still up on the 3rd and 4th floors and had to be out by noon, per contract, or the hotel would charge the company. So the supervisor lit a fire up everyone's asses and I went into crazy overdrive mode and we got the shit out and spent the rest of the day until 6:00pm unloading the stuff and putting it away in the warehouse. Then we dropped off the trucks, and by 7:00pm I was on my way to Brooklyn with the van (that Marie and I would be needing the next day to pick up stuff in the city for the next event) where Marie was waiting for me to pick her up to go out and get some drinks. By 10:30pm I was good and drunk and we were on our way to see a friend of mine who was up from Austin who was DJing around the corner from our apartment. By 1:00am I was falling asleep in a booth, then dragging Marie home where I passed out cold with the cheese that I'd found on the way in the apartment hanging half way out of my mouth.

The next day we went to pick up the stuff in Manhattan that we needed for the next event, then went to get one of the girls from the office, then went to get Marie's friend Yoko. We all went to lunch at the Turkish guy's restaurant (who I'd met Upstate with Marc the week before when Marc and I went over to his place for a bbq and played pool) in SOHO. My Turkish friend wasn't in, then went to see Jim Jarmusch's new movie The Limits of Control over at the Angelika on Houston, except for Yoko who cut out early to get some sleep.

The next day Marie made brunch. A couple of her friend's showed up as did a couple of mine. We cleaned up then spent the day reading The New York Times in bed and I napped. We tried to make it to see a guy's band that I'd met on the job site who'd come into help us out when things were getting hectic. His band was playing just around the corner, and I tried to go, I really did. I got my clothes on and everything. But when it came down to it me and Marie were both too tired to go and we got into bed and watched a movie then fell asleep.

- Once I finally, reluctantly got my ass outta bed at noon I cleaned the apartment, got the laundry together, dropped the laundry at the laundry mat for a wash and fold. I didn't have the energy to do it myself - $20 compared to $10 if do it myself, 'whatever', I thought. They asked if tomorrow was okay for pickup but I convinced them that I needed to have it ready tonight - after ten o' clock they said - as me and Marie are completely out of clean clothes. Then I went to the bank and deposited a check, withdrew as much as I could to put towards rent, then went to the bank of the guy who Marie is subleasing our place from, deposited a check that Marie'd left me on my computer this morning and deposited my cash and her check. I kept twenty bucks aside so that I could Fedex a query letter to my first prospective agent, went to the internet cafe and printed out my query on a piece of ivory paper that I bought from the guy behind the counter for a clean 20 cents, then tucked up under my shirt as it was raining out, and walked carefully around the corner to the Fedex place where I had the query sent 2day delivery with a self addressed stamped envelope. Afterward I got a coffee and smoked a cigarette as my heart was pounding so hard at the prospect of an actual agent reading the query letter that'd been driving me crazy for months, that I thought that I might pass out.

I walked home through the rain smoking and drinking my coffee with all the 'what if' scenarios about the query letter and the book running through my head making me anxious as hell and worried that maybe I should've waited longer and edited the damn thing more, but I was just getting too anxious, and more work was coming up, in a seemingly endless stream until the day I died piling up on the horizon. Plus me and Marie had recently started losing hope about the prospect of either of us ever getting published, and I felt like I had to do something just to keep the hope alive.


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