Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tuesday Night in New York

There's so much to do in NYC it's really overwhelming.

There's too much going on and too many people going on about it. You could never possibly do it all, like you could never possibly see every destination in the world. Trying is futile. Futile, but fun.

Which is why sometimes you do try...without really knowing. For example, on wet Tuesday, I went to Barnes & Noble to see Augusten Burroughs read from his new book. Turns out I had the date wrong, but there was still a Q&A session--via ichat from Toronto--with author Margaret Atwood. She has written over 35 books in her long career, not including the poetry.

I wanted to ask Augusten Burroughs about his process, how he does it? Churn out book after book. How does he avoid distractions like the internet (xtube), or procrastination (washing dishes). Instead I asked Margaret. For any of you writers, or wannabe writers, here's what she said:

Atwood gives herself a daily word count quota. A certain number of words written daily --good words, bad words, it doesn't matter (she'll edit the next day). But she gets them written, and it doesn't have to be in one sitting. She'll do 500 words, go weed the garden, and come back later.

No word on whether "weeding the garden" is her euphemism for Xtube.

I bought Atwood's book, and waited in line to get it signed with new technology called the LongPen. It's this new device (that she had developed) where you can sign books...from Toronto! She scribbles whatever it is onto a computer pad, and the little arm of the Long Pen scribbles it onto my book here in NYC.

It was the first time ever they used this new invention, so the Barnes & Noble staff were really excited to be making history.

There's me talking to Margaret (on screen) as she signs my book. The funny thing about it is, she can't tell what the hell she's signing.

"By the way," I told her here, "You're signing a BIBLE."
"I am?"
"No," I said. "It's yours. I much prefer your science fiction."

After that, we headed to Pete's Tavern for dinner. Pete's has been there on Irving Street in Gramercy since 1864 and claims to be the oldest continuously running bar in New York City. This is a lie. Old Mcsorley's Ale House in the East Village is the oldest continuously running bar in New York City, since 1854.

McSorley's served Abraham Lincoln and Boss Tweed, and has its original coal burning central stove. Pete's was home to regular O. Henry, who wrote "Gift of the Magi" here, and sports an original rosewood bar. Both bars survived 1920's prohibition as speakeasies. Do you sense a rivalry?

Next, Bam and I caught a flick at the Tribeca Film Festival. This festival features a frustrating, user-enemy website, and what's more...the festival will not stay put, sprawling all over the city like a reviled child of NYU. It's got films starring Mariah Carey, and Madonna, and closing night is Hollywood blockbuster "Speed Racer," wait---- Tribeca is supposed to be about independent film?!

Imagine my shock and surprise, when I saw a very funny, very well made independent film! Director James Westby created The Auteur, about a washed-up porn director (the "Fellini of Porn," a hysterical Melik Malkasian), who is resting on the laurels of his last critical success, "Full-Metal Jackoff." It was hysterical and it was made in Portland, Oregon...with a big shout out to Beaverton. My little hometown's done well!

Yesterday, I went back to Barnes & Noble to see Augusten Burroughs (on the right date), and there were hundreds of people. I was stuck in the standing room, trying to peer at him from behind several tall shelves of books. No joke! Augusten's flicks his wrists a lot, and looked very small. He's not, but anyone looks small from fifty meters away.

His fantastic memoir, Dry, really influenced me to put my memoir (You Can Run) in present tense. It made all the difference to me and so I wanted to thank him in person, to buy his new book, and give him a copy of mine. Seeing as he was mobbed by hundreds upon hundreds of people, I got disheartened and walked out.

I left the copy of my book I brought for him on the travel essay table downstairs.


Anonymous said...

If you want to find Augusten Burroughs, you should scour the city's AA meetings. Do you dare?

Tony said...

Jesse -

You are so right: there's too much to do in NYC. My visits are so infrequent and short that my unsatisfactory solution is to make sure I hit my "regular" spots before I have to leave: the opera, the museums, a couple of favorite restaurants, maybe the theater.

And I try to make sure I see my friends who live there, but they're busy too, so it's tough to get everything in, plus seeing something new.

But I love it anyway - it may be overwhelming, but for me, it's exhilirating. Part of the attraction may be that I was born in NYC, so some sort of natal imprinting could be responsible.

(BTW, I checked out the Pete's Tavern website - unbelievably reasonably priced - so it's definitely gonna be my "new place" next time I'm in town.)

How cool that you got to talk to Margaret Atwood, even though it was by remote. Until he went nuts, Hemingway also made sure he wrote a daily quota of new stuff. The only thing of Atwood's I've read is "Handmaiden's Tale" which was very creepy and really good. Do you recommend her latest?

This is already too long, so I'm giving everyone a break and signing off. Later.

Liska27 said...

Hey Jesse! You had a busy two days, but then again you always have a busy two days!

Both authors are them both, but with Atwood it's either I really love it or I really don't. Loved The Handmaid's Tale & The Blind Assassin hated The Edible Woman (and another one) -- but maybe that's because I wrote papers on those in college...

Anyway, hope you're doing well.

Melissa & Jon

Mark in DE said...

You're so right about there always being too much to do in NYC. I imagine with compulsive tendancies could literally go without sleep their entire lives, trying to do and see all there is in NYC.

Sorry you didn't get to meet Augusten. I loved "Scissors" and "Sellavision".

Mark :-)