You ran a comedy show in Williamsburg called Filthy Stinking Rich. Each week you brought fake money and coins you bought at dollar stores and put them all over the backroom of the venue. Money was the most fascinating and hilarious topic to you, and you knew so many comedians had bits about being broke and terrible with money so you were hoping it would resonate with Williamsburg hipsters. You were wrong. The show lasted two years and never advanced past "extremely poorly attended Brooklyn bar show" status. Your promotional skills were lacking and perhaps you were more focused on making sure you had fake 100 dollar bills for the audience.
Money is a subject of desire. It is a character in the world that can bring immense joy, extreme pleasure, extraordinary stress, and life ruination. You were trying to explore it, understand it, and overcome its power. Then, you became a temporary receptionist at one of the largest wealth asset management firms in the world.
Temping is the casual sex of work. You interviewed for a full time position and waited nearly 8 weeks to hear if you got it or not. The word was that the company (which was a Fortune 500) did not want to pay your temp agency fee. Every day you went into this company and looked at the floral arrangement on your desk.
On your first day there, your boss asked you how much you thought the flowers cost. He said with cocaine fueled pride that the flowers cost the exact same as your weekly pay.
Each week, the florist would swap out the flowers for fresh ones, even though the flowers were still very beautiful and healthy. And the florist who delivered them told you that she insisted on keeping them for herself and continued to let them grow in her own personal garden because it was such a huge waste to throw away perfectly beautiful, healthy flowers weekly. She knew it was a disgusting thing to do. They did this to impress clients. That's it. You also knew she had to live in Jersey if she had a garden.
You wanted more than anything to be accepted there. You were ready to part with a half assed media career and become a full time money queen. A financial guru, a wolfette of Wall Street. It meant you would receive a full time salary, healthcare benefits, 401K, and fancy midtown happy hours. And most of all, not having a panic attack about making rent every single month.
Each day you arrived early in a pretty Forever 21 dress and stocked the fridge full of Perrier. The hungover finance guys loved their ice cold water. They noticed. They adored you. But still it was not enough. You had a degree in creative writing, not in finance. They saw you for what you were - the temporary.
They threw you away. Some of them felt bad about it, others stopped talking to you when you replaced the Keurig cups on their floor because they felt awkward about it being the right decision. You were a messy comedian with a background in television, not a woman ready to reception clients and be involved with managing the wealth of large companies and powerful entities. You had a lot to learn about what money really meant both personally and professionally.
On your last day, they had a small party for you. Whole Foods mini cupcakes and champagne. You left that day with a plastic cup full of champagne and walked down 5th avenue with it in tow, head held high and tears falling down your face. You were really going to miss that 49th floor view.
Moving to New York City as a new comic is considered gauche at best. It's actually very embarrassing. Your reasons for moving to the city were unrelated for the most part. You had a really fun night once at Cake Shop in college and saw Beach House at Le Puisson Rouge and that was enough reason to move to one of the most expensive cities in the world. You were convinced that New York is where you go to experience the magical and the unusual.
As it appeared to people who hardly knew you, it would seem like you were a delusional new comic who believed they were ready for late night. Comedy was to you more of a social activity. You had a burgeoning hobby that would allow you to make friends and start over in a new place.
You knew the open mic scene would be tough and the bar shows would be booked up with people with TV credits. You knew your name would be drawn later, last group at most open mics and would be that way for years.
Your second winter in NYC, you decided to become even more embarrassing than you already were. After an open mic at The Stand, a comic offered you the chance to bark - standing at street corners selling comedy tickets. So you put on your hat and gloves and barked in the snow for that whole winter. You barked on McDougal and would regularly see Louis CK walk right by you on his way to the cellar as you tried to convince tourists to see comedy at the extremely dive basement Greenwich Comedy Club.
The guy running your barking ring was a hustler. He had a reputation in NYC comedy for having an ability to fill seats. Full shows are a currency in New York. Famous comedians will perform on a show for free if they know they have an opportunity to work out new material in front of a large audience. Your barking guy was kind of hacky and seemed superficially kind in the way where you know he is only kind in case he can get something from you in the future.
One night after you successfully barked in a European family and made $80 bucks doing so, you had a well received set as well on the show. Afterwards, your barking hustler asked to talk to you alone.
"Good set, you remind me a little of Sarah Silverman."
"Okay. Wow, thanks."
"Yeah you have a cute, almost child like delivery but your material is super blue."
"You should go with that as a brand. More like, cum and poop stuff. But say it in a super cute way like it's not blue at all."
You took the C train home and pondered his assessment of your style.
Later he texted you asking if you'd be willing to change barking locations. At first you considered this to be a really negative thing, like wow is this guy seriously going to make me accept a barking demotion?? You were a little offended. He moved you from MacDougal to a tiny shithole club in Queens called Laughing Devil. You reluctantly bundled up and took the G train to 21st street stop in Long Island City.
You walked in and saw a young lady working the small ticketing stand at the front bar. She had piercing dark eyes and silky black hair. Her voice was sexy and her laugh was loud and unapologetic. You instantly liked her so much. She was a famous comic's girlfriend and the manager/booker of the club. She was one of the coolest people you have ever met. All winter you would run to the bodega down the street to buy her yogurt and you would tell her how much you loved and admired Dave Attell.
She introduced you to someone who would become one of your best friends in the city for the rest of your time there. She said, "He's pretentious as hell, I think you'll love him!" and sure enough the first night you stood outside in the freezing cold barking with him, you left fully knowing you had just made a very good friend.
The best part about barking was the lowered expectation. That bar is so low that the delight that came from meeting special people was so above and beyond how that normally feels. You don't expect to see a rainbow when you are swimming in a piss pond.
Standing outside being embarrassing alone in the cold is depressing and isolating. Being embarrassing with your friend? There's nothing better.
You got laid off after only a few months at your first salary position in NYC. They asked you to come into a conference room while they packed up your many many snacks at your desk. They gave you your generous severance check and escorted you out with two huge bags of desk snacks.
Months later your severance was well spent and you were tired of walking dogs and writing listicles for $25 per article. Your unemployment insurance was going to be expired soon. You had been living in NYC for a little less than year and nothing was working. You were completely wasting your time at open mics, bar shows, and hooking up with an actual Jersey garbage man. You wanted more, so of course you answered the craiglist ad about employment opportunities at a sex museum.
You showed up wearing your go-to summer dress - tight purple a line you found at a thrift store. In the summer all you ever want is to feel as little as possible on your skin. You wanted to be one of those beautiful effortlessly clean and glamorous women walking around New York City in flowy dresses and expensive sunglasses. Instead you were sweaty, smelly, and your shoes were covered in slimy New York mess.
When you arrived, a skinny man wearing a dog collar greeted you. He escorted you down to a basement where you had an interview with an elegant older woman.
She asked, "What makes you want to work as a museum sex actor?"
You responded, "I need a job right now that pays money. So the money."
She looked at your resume. "A comedian? Tell me a joke."
You hated this interaction. You got it all the time. You had an opportunity to tell your dirtiest joke for a job opportunity and you cheapened yourself like a little joke whore and went for the bait anyway.
"I don't understand flavored condoms." You said.
She was dubious, as everyone rightfully should be when they hear a joke from someone for the first time.
"My butthole doesn't have tastebuds."
You got the job.
You were escorted to a part of the museum with a film screen in the background showing Linda Lovelace gagging on a big ole dick. You sat down at a table with the manager, the man wearing the dog collar. That is where you filled out you tax forms and employee contact information sheet.
You were instructed to "sexually intimidate" museum visitors using a BDSM paddle. You were encouraged to sneak up on them, blow in their ears, and guide them seductively to a clitoris shaped theremin at the end of a mirror maze. You were required to ask tourists to remove their watches before entering the titty bouncy castle. Some of them didn't speak English. Some of them wanted you to spank them with your paddle - usually it was European dads with their family.
One day you had a team meeting on the floor by the dick rock climbing wall. The manager said, if the employees wanted to, and felt compelled to, you were allowed to have sexual interaction with visitors in the mirror maze that led to the clitoris. You replied, "We really need to get some windex and clean these mirrors. They are covered with smudges."
You were encouraged to sell a butterscotch flavored lube near the museum exit, over by the dick rock climbing wall, but you were scared to touch the lube bottle.
One day you noticed black stuff all over the foreplay derby, which was essentially skeeball meets some kind of Dave and busters derby racing game you had seen before. You looked at it closely. It was black mold.
You told your manager. His response was "That's just dust."
You said "I know what dust looks like."
He was visibly irritated. "Ok you can just leave if you want to."
You took off your cape and set your paddle down and walked right out. On your way to the back exit, seeing the statue of deers running a train on each other affirmed that your decision was the right one.
After a few months of living in New York, you found a post production coordinator salary position at a major marketing agency. It was an unnecessarily stressful job because the company was recently acquired by another advertising agency and layoffs were on the horizon.
Your boss was an old man who was clearly on a ton of adderall and/or cocaine and/or god knows what his script happy doctor was giving him to maintain his speed. He was always on level 10 go go go mode, red faced, and ready to scream at you because he found a very minor typo in one of your e-mails.
One day he punched a computer screen because you attached a screenshot to an e-mail instead of embedding it. He punched the screen and it fell on the ground, shattering all over his office. They had to completely replace the monitor.
You had a pretty bad commute. You took the G train from Bed Stuy and the 7 Train to Grand Central. You were often about 10-15 minutes late, sometimes more if the 7 train was down due to snow/bad weather.
You always gave the boss a heads up via text or e-mail if the trains were being dysfunctional. One snowy day you were about 10 minutes late. Right when you arrived to work, he ordered you to come into his office and close the door.
"Chelsea. No one cares about your silly train problems." he said.
You wanted to laugh so badly at the cartoonishly mean and classist thing he said. You couldn't and still can't afford cabs , and you don't have a life partner who can drive you to work in his or her BMW. You are a mere plebeian who relies on public transportation, which is often unreliable and inconvenient.
You realized almost 5 years later, staring out your window in your Crown Heights apartment that he was right. No one cared about your silly train problems. This city wasn't for you, it isn't for most people. It's for people who have abundance and for people who are okay with depriving themselves of self acceptance. You had your fun here, but it was time to go back where you belong.
You landed in New York back in 2013 with bleeding gums, an ear ache, and a backpack. You went from the airport straight to a hostel in Queens. You left NYC with a cat you found off the streets and 2 suitcases full of stuff and went straight from Hartsfield to your sister's house in East Atlanta.
You looked at your wrist. You got a peach tattoo right before you move to New York. You know deep down that you got it because you knew you were not finished with the south and it was never going to be finished with you. You were no longer enchanted with New York and its Woody Allen era intellectual magic, its gutter punk piss covered dive bars, and the people with personalities larger than the screens in Time Square.
You called your mom and said you're moving back home. One month later, you were on a plane back to Atlanta. In Atlanta, there are no train problems because the train is so bad most people don't even use it. In Atlanta, everyone is going to be late because of traffic.
In Atlanta, you have a past to contend with and fears to confront. You had so much fun with your silly train problems that seemed so real at the time. They were all folly and distraction from what you were running from.