Sunday, September 5, 2010

Prologue: I Hit the Ground Stumbling

I arrived the way I've arrived to a lot of places: with my 55-liter backpack, on a bus, looking out the window for clues.

What I saw was bumper-to-bumper traffic, most of it made up of New Jersey license plates. If they'd started on foot from where we were about twenty minutes (or roughly five feet) from the Lincoln Tunnel, I'm pretty sure my twin seven-month old nieces would have beaten us to Penn Station. And last I heard only one of them knows how to crawl, let alone walk.

We did make it, eventually, while watching pedestrians pass us by, dodging droplets from the air conditioners hanging out of the concrete walls and windows. I pulled my backpack out of the pile of bags tossed on the ground, wincing as the side with my external hard drive hit the sidewalk. I'd packed it to take that kind of abuse, but it didn't make me feel much better. I also had a small roller bag, designed for airplane aisles. Not much for most people, but to me, it was if I was walking along with an elephant-sized steamer trunk.

Half an hour later, I was at Union Square, eating the first food I'd had in about ten hours- A subway sandwich that I think gets me the most calories for my dollar. I had my back (and pack) up against a tree, out of habit, and my suitcase just to my right. I prefer to see anyone approaching my stuff.

In the crowd, I noticed a girl. Let's just say she was the kind of girl who a guy my age would notice. And she was looking at me as she walked by. She walked close, to my left side about four feet away, then turned and asked.

"Sorry, do you know where the PATH train is?"

I'd heard of it. But it was my first day in New York City. I told her so, then pulled out my phone, offering to find out. She got flustered, muttered to herself about where the intersection was. I pointed out that we were already standing on that intersection. She mumbled some more, briskly thanked me, and called out "Welcome to New York!"

It was her manner and abrupt departure that sent a signal I knew well. I walked a few steps, then casually checked my pockets and all the outside pockets of my suitcase. Everything present and accounted for. I hadn't even noticed that she'd waited until she was on my left to talk to me, forcing me to turn my back on my suitcase. I must be getting rusty.

So that's how my first welcome to my new hometown came from someone I'm fairly certain was a con artist.

I had an apartment arranged in East Harlem-- one of my oldest friends was moving out of it and into her boyfriend's place, a month and a half before the lease was up. So I got a new home. A mutual, somewhat stressed-out friend was drafted last minute to hand me the keys. I had those, and soon after bought a month-long unlimited ride Metro Card for the subway. After that, I walked past the salsa music, 99 cent stores and flags of El Barrio, and into my new building. I didn't spend much time-- I was soon headed for a goodbye party for a Cuban friend I'd met in Shanghai.

I'm now 24 years old. I have no real responsibilities to speak of. No car. No house or other down payment on anything. No loans left to repay. No girlfriend. No kids or anyone else dependent on me. No commitments to the future aside from a promise to my family to be home in Seattle for the holidays.

What I do have is a month and a half (and option to extend) in a one-bedroom apartment in uptown Manhattan furnished with little more than a card table, a slightly leaky air mattress, and a couple bookshelves.

I haven't lived in one city for a full year since I was seventeen years old. If you believe what you read in magazines, every cell in my body has been replaced since then. I don't sit still well. Never have.

I'm here because legend has it that New York City is a good place for the young, and a great one for actors. A hard place, but a great place. And I don't feel like spending the rest of my life in a suburban home with the 2.3 kids and black lab, driving home from my 9-5 job wondering "what if..." Besides, a little challenge keeps me interested.

I figure either I'll be a success, or I'll be an interesting failure. Either way, it's an adventure and a story, and at the end of the day, those are what I'm really here for.


  1. Woop wooop! Best of luck there - hope you'll shortly be my new celebrity contact haha. Sure you can do it!

  2. Good luck Joel!
    Look forward to future posts

  3. Good luck Joel:)

    Remember the bucket list in Lake Baikal... I am sure that you will cross an item:

    - appear in a newspaper!!!!

  4. From what I see here, I admire the way you write and the way you live.

  5. I was shocked; but why should I be surprised. I have enjoyed Jtrek! Well I certainly will be in the audience.
    "curtain please." one thing is for certain Joel you love adventure. I hope the best for you....
    Teacher from North Africa.

  6. Femke- Yes indeed, and your celebrity contact is going to need a "manager of the future" at some point, yes? Have fun at that Dutch Castle of yours!

    Priya- Thank you! Hope you're doing well down in S Africa. How's post World-Cup madness these days?

    Gareth- I've already got that one-- Seattle Times reviewed my show in Seattle this summer. Next step, the other thing from our bucket list: Credit in a Major Motion Picture.

    Santiago- Thank you very much! Just out of curiosity, how did you find this blog?

    Chandel- Shocked? Aww... Glad you enjoyed JTrek, sorry I never got around to replying last time, but I was ridiculously pleased to hear from you guys again! And thanks again for the ride into Casablanca, maybe someday I can return the favor!

    So. On my blogs first post so far are two comments from The Netherlands, one from South Africa, one from Morocco, one from France. I'm pleased.

  7. If your acting is half as good as your writing, I'm sure you'll do great! I'm also job-hunting in NY, only instead of getting a place full-time, I'm living with parents in the suburbs 4 nights a week and 3 nights a week I'm couch-surfing with friends, buying them dinner, taking out their trash and trying to get an offer before the goodwill runs out. I may have to get a sublet at some point, but we'll see. : )