New York City. Winter, 1987.
I’d arrived from New Zealand a couple of weeks before and was crashing on my friend Andrew’s couch. It was a nice couch and life was a whirlwind of fun in the big city, but…
Things weren’t going too well, financially speaking.
I was broke. Every day I went out looking for work as an animator, but there was none to be found.
So to make ends meet I applied for a job at Empire Messenger Service as, what else? A messenger.
No experience needed, read the flyer taped to a lamppost on 8th Ave.
That’s good, because that’s just what I had.
The head office for Empire Messenger Service resided in the basement of the Empire State Building, so it was pretty easy to find. After filling out a brief but surprisingly invasive questionnaire, I sat on a wooden bench with many others in the overheated room and awaited my turn for an interview.
It was good to sit down. I was tired. The night before some idiot (me) had borrowed enough money from somewhere for a couple of eight-balls and we’d been all over town, drinking frozen margaritas and jabbering like lunatic monkeys until dawn.
Tired as I was, I fell asleep.
Someone elbowed me awake and said it’s your turn, so I rose and walked towards the manager’s office.
I stepped through the open doorway into the tiny office and stood where I was, facing a middle-aged, balding man who sat behind a cluttered desk.
‘Vinny’ read the plastic nameplate in front of him.
“Where’d you get the suntan, buddy?” he asked.
He was suspicious from the start.
“Suntan?” I answered. “What suntan, mate? I’ve been freezing my bloody ass off since I landed in this godforsaken shit-hole you freakin blankety yanks call the Big bleedin Apple!”
My sudden rant surprised even me. I didn’t mean to answer that way, it just popped out of my mouth!
I really wanted a job. I needed a job. I should have simply explained how I got my suntan… that I’d recently arrived from a land down under where summer was winter and winter was summer.
But no, not me. I was half asleep and I let loose!
(I’m never at my best when I first wake up. I’ll bet some of you… are like that too, sometimes.)
But it was also something else, this letting loose of sour apples and freezing shit-holes into the face of Vinny the hiring manager.
Something deeper. More personal. It was frustration! I was an out of work artist down on his luck… looking for a job every day up and down New York City… and getting nothing but rejection!
Oh sure, they liked my work, those that looked at it, but they couldn’t use me at present. Animation? Not much call for that! Maybe in the future. Leave your name with the girl at the front desk… and don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out!
Hear me, Struggling Artist! You had better love your art, and love it madly, passionately, even desperately, because sometimes it’ll feel like that’s all you’ve got.
“You’re not from around here, huh?” asked Vinny. “You speak English? That was English, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah,” I answered, calming down, waking up. “That was English.”
“Ya got a funny accent. You a Limey?”
“No,” I answered, “I’m a Kiwi.” I explained where I was from.
He glanced at my questionnaire on his desk.
“It says here you’re an artist?”
“Yes,” I replied proudly, “I am.”
“Well,” he said magnanimously, “I think we can overlook that.” Then he asked simply, “Healthy?”
“Healthy,” I affirmed. Sure, I was healthy as an ox… and twice as smart, too, or would be later when my hangover was gone.
To be continued...