Tuesday, May 10, 2016

It’s Always Better to be Lucky than Good

NYC 1987
It’s Always Better to be Lucky than Good

Yes, I was living the true artist’s life! 
Just as my friends back in New Zealand had predicted.
Day after day I was walking the friendless streets of the heartless City of New York in my worn down shoes, my artistic life’s work, my animation demo reel, clasped in my frozen hand, forcing myself onward, one more call, one more try, hoping to just get a chance to show what I could do!
Hungry and cold and looking for work. 
It was a testing time for me as an artist and as a person, looking back on it, but I was not going to give up on my dream of becoming an animator in America.
It helps tremendously in life sometimes to be young and naive. 
Haven’t you found it so?
Suzie had found employment for a few hours a week in a small travel agency uptown by the park, but owing to her dubious legal status she was paid under the table, and not very much. 
She hadn’t yet gotten her green card, which entitles a foreigner to work in the States. She had applied for it and being married to me, an American citizen, it was pretty much assured. 
I myself didn’t have a Social Security number when we landed in America, either, and had to apply for one. You should have seen the incredulous look on the clerk’s face when I handed over my application. 
“You’re almost thirty-four-years-old and you don’t have a Social Security number?” she accused. She was very suspicious and after the fashion of petty government officials the world over, but especially New York City government officials, extremely rude. 
“I haven’t lived in America since I was a kid,” I explained. “How would I have gotten one?”
“Every American requires a social security number,” she sniffed.
“Yes. I understand,” I said. “That’s why I’m here. To get a social security number.”
I pushed my papers over the counter and smiled my cheesiest, fuck you smile. I didn’t have a worry in the world. I was a natural born American citizen and had the papers to prove it. 
“We’ll see,” she threatened and after a last piercing stare put her head down checking my paperwork. She was a mean one. I’d watched her as I stood waiting in line. What joy washed over her bitter features when she could send some poor bugger to the back of the line for want of the correct scrap of paper!
Suzie and I spent days at the Office of Immigration downtown, waiting in line, crowded together with hundreds of foreign nationals of every conceivable persuasion. 
“We’re just floating in the vast American melting pot, dahling!” was how Suzie put it and we’d laugh. As I looked around I was surprised by the number of people wanting to live in America, and a little saddened by their aura of helplessness and big, pleading eyes of the children. 
I was somewhat embarrassed by the ease with which I was hoping to accomplish what for them was a monumental feat.
To live and work in America. 
All I’d ever done was to have been born there.
“Oh-kay,” sighed the clerk after a few minutes. “This seems to be in order.” 
She was disappointed, I could tell. 
“Better luck next time,” I answered, again with the up-yours smile.
Yes, I thought, it’s always better to be lucky than good.

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