I’m not a failure! But waking on a Sunday morning wanting only to spend too much money on brunch with all the other kids and finding an empty bank account can sure make you feel that way, eh?
All I want are the comforts of a nice bourgeois life without working every single day. I’m not lazy, I just want to do my work for the week in three 13.3 hour days instead of dragging it out and commuting in and doing the lunch time takeout shuffle back to my desk every day. I suppose some jobs require it. I suppose it works for some people. Ultimately I’m just jealous that I can’t hack it. I’m mad at myself for not being happy that way.
But what to do? An interesting protagonist can fail, but there’s no story if he gives up. So onward monkey! Get on out and about that motherfucker!
Over the last year I have developed about 8 employment sources who call me every now and then with random work for between $20-$50/hr. Once I got paid to take the ornaments and lights down from a billionaire’s living room Christmas tree.
On any given day I can be called to be a set builder, a production assistant for movies and commercials, a driver, an assistant prop stylist, or a store window decorator.
I am also completing a collection of short essays entitled I’m Not Your Mother which I hope to have finished by June.
I will now exhaustively chronicle my jobs and attempts at not failing….
Basking in the catharsis of yelling “I’m a failure!” to everyone I knew on Sunday I retreated to a bench by the East River in a park with a bronze sculpture of a wild boar with a bronze penis lounging about with a menagerie of bronze creatures including frogs and crabs and ate bagels with my girlfriend that she bought for us.
I got a text. Work on Monday. Monday was coming for me too after all.
I slept like shit. Tossing half awake in and out of a dream that had me working again as the oldest production assistant on a movie set and getting yelled at no matter what and finally it was getting light outside and I headed to work.
Monday I put in a half day assisting a prop stylist on a fashion photo shoot. She’s a dope ass chica named C.
A. gave me money for coffee and the subway before I left her sleeping in our bed. Hit the subway at 745 after filling my thermos with coffee at a place I like along the way.
Arrived at my destination in Greenpoint and picked up keys from C. Walked over to the warehouse that houses her work studio and up the stairs sweating profusely from sipping at the redeye steaming in my thermos along narrow corridors with slanting floors and countless doors to her studio. Grabbed a power drill. Couldn’t find the charger. Took a folding dolly with me too.
Back to C.’s house to grab a bunch of painted foam core, squares of plywood, a roll of foam carpet padding, a small table and a clothing steamer from her neighbor downstairs who happens to be a wardrobe stylist and also happens to be working on the shoot with us today.
I had all the stuff at the curb and put my coffee down on the little plastic table while I loaded everything into the livery SUV. Grabbed my mug and jumped into the truck leaving the table there on the sidewalk.
Luckily C’s friend saw it on her way out and grabbed it.
For me it was only a half day helping get the stuff to the shoot for C and building a cube out of the plywood squares. I cut half-circles out of the colored foam core and helped hang the carpet padding on the wall as a backdrop for the model; tall redhead with an angry look that completely disappeared when she smiled.
The job requires long hours of standing around making visual decisions so the people who get hired are for the most part pretty nice and easy to work with. This shoot was no exception. But I got to leave after they gave us lunch.
In five hours I made more money than 10 hours driving a NYC taxicab or 16 hours as production assistant on a Tide commercial the previous week. Now I was out in the sun, hitting the subway home to eat my free lunch and take a nap.
C. had a lot of shoots coming up and she had a lot of prep to do. She asked me to work a shoot by myself the next day. Easy for props with just a few white ladders and white cubes and a white stool. She put me in charge of finalizing the prop list with the client.
Emails back and forth. They approved the ladders in the first few emails, but the chain continued on for most of the afternoon going back and forth about how many white cubes of what sizes we needed to rent. Real earth shattering shit. By the time I got home and the decision to get two cubes had finally been made I forgot all about the ladders. I can’t explain it. It makes no sense to me now, but I got tunnel vision. I was locked on: Cubes. Cubes. Cubes. Rent cubes, arrange courier to deliver cubes to the Soho photo studio for the shoot in the morning.
Everything was arranged. The courier called me. “Cubes or tubes?! What am I picking up?”
“Cubes with a C?”
“Then they gave me the wrong thing. They gave me cubes.”
“You got cubes right?”
“With a c?”
He called me back an hour later. The freight elevator at tomorrow’s studio was closed for the day. He had to hold the cubes overnight at additional charge. I’d just have to pay C. for my mistake.
All work settled I emptied my piggy bank of quarters onto the coffee table and put them into the paper wrappers I got at Jack’s 99¢ in midtown last week. I packed five rolls of quarters and used them to buy weed. Me and my guy are like that.
Then I wrote for two hours in my writing studio; a folding beach chair in the bathroom.
I went to bed feeling very unlike a failure. Monday had certainly been a success.
I jumped up ten minutes later with the most miserable feeling of failure. I forgot about the ladders! The ladders, the most important props for the shoot I was working on in the morning all alone on set for the first time.
I developed a plan.
One ladder and a stool were in Brooklyn. The other ladder was near Herald Square so I could pick it up myself on the way. Luckily call time wasn’t until 930 so I had a little leeway.
I woke at 6 and scheduled the courier to pick up the stuff in Brooklyn. The best guarantee they could give was noon. I arrived at the shoot on time with a ladder under my arm. The cubes were there already but were barely white so chipped and scuffed were they with dark marks all over them.
I painted them white sweating through my t-shirt from the coffee I kept sipping regardless. The photo assistants set up the lights. The wardrobe woman steamed her clothes while the attractive hair and makeup girls chatted looking into their phones over by the light up mirrors waiting for the talent to arrive.
Poached egg, turkey bacon, chicken sausage, whole wheat toast with a slice of avocado and a bowl of fresh blueberries and blackberries for breakfast. I know, right?
Finally the ladder and stool arrived from Brooklyn. The stool was fine but the ladder was actually grey, not white like the photo from the prop catalog. It had to be white.
No hardware stores in lower Manhattan carry wooden ladders. Luckily the photographer had one at home. She sent her interns for it and they brought it back pink for me to paint white. I slopped it on and let it dry and and watched people pose for the camera and I arranged the ladder or stool in the shot every once in a while to achieve the desired composition for the photo.
Lunch was a Greek salad.
Then I moved the ladder and stool in and out of frame a couple more times and then we wrapped and everyone clapped and I put all the ladders back in their blankets and filled out the form for the courier to get them in the morning.
The photographer bought the crew beers at the studio bar and we drank and chatted and got to know each other better for the next time.
LE was obviously miffed about the extra courier costs but we’ll square it up and the client was happy so in the end it was a win for all.
I was home by 7. Back into my bathroom writing studio for another two hours and then it was time to meet with A and our friends for drinks. They all paid for me and we met a manic interior designer from England in her fifties who’s lived in the East Village since the ’70s and only dates tall rich men with big pricks now.
We left the bar and stayed up too late smoking Camels and eating Oreo cookies and drinking tallboys of Genesee cream ale and I read out loud a story I’ve been working on and everyone fell asleep.
I woke up hungover this morning and went back to sleep when A left for work. Then I got up, went to the bank to change the rest of my rolled coins into cash. I bought a large latte and went home to write this.
Thanks for reading. See you Sunday!