I rolled into town feeling like a cold caller trying to sell beige slacks on June 1, 2000, with about 3 grand (in checks & money orders) rolled up in my sock, over a hundred pounds of luggage on my bruised shoulders, and little the fuck else.
I flew in from Minneapolis after spending one last night with my ex-girlfriend, then leaving her and my group of best friends & life as I knew it...and there was no turning back. (I that believe you CAN "look back" every once in awhile - to reflect, which is what I'm doing here).
On my flight, I remember the pilot saying through the loudspeaker, "Ladies & Gentlemen.....uuuuuuuuummmmmm.....if you look to the left of the aircraft.....uuuuuummmmm.....that's Lake Erie...."
It was then that it occurred to me that I didn't know where the fuck I was going to be in a day, much less a week, a month, or a year! Sure, it sounds exciting and romantic, and all of that crap....but when it's right in front of your face like a burning jungle, it's more than a little bit daunting and pretty fucking scary!
Well, I arrived at LaGuardia, and grabbed my luggage (consisting of a hockey bag that resembled an overstuffed burrito, a backpack, a case with my snare drum, sticks, and kick drum pedal....and I think I might have had my cymbal bag with me as well), and grabbed a cab to Manhattan. I was to go to the acting school where my good friend Alfredo worked and attended classes, grab the keys to his apartment in Bay Ridge (in South Brooklyn) and head to his house. So I rolled into this old brick building on Jane Street, with all of my crap....which I left in the stairwell (I figured, if anyone wants to carry this shit, BE MY GUEST). Looking like the dark shadow of death's understudy, I then walked up to the front desk.
"Hi....my friend Al should have left some keys in the desk for me.....??????"
The hag behind the desk squinted, took a look at me, pulled the desk drawer out, gave it a way-too-quick once-over, and dismissed me with, "I'm sorry....there's nothing here!"
Stunned, I asked, "Are you SURE? Can you please look AGAIN?"
"I JUST DID....there's nothing HERE!"
I began to panic. I tried to call Al, but he wasn't picking up. Perfect.
I didn't know what the fuck to do....I was beyond exhausted, and I didn't have anywhere to go, really. I was in a strange, ENORMOUS, cold, new place that I didn't know my way around yet, and I was weighed down with everything I owned in the world.
It then occurred to me that another buddy of mine, Lenny, was making the same move that I was, and he had emailed me his new # a week beforehand.
With nothing else to do, I called Lenny....thank CHRIST he was home.
"Hey Man....how are you? I'm completely SCREWED!"
"Well....that sucks, Man," he said, "....well....do you wanna come hang out for awhile? I'm in Astoria, but...."
I grabbed another cab, this time to Astoria, in the North-Western part of Queens....with a feeling of suspended animation, and also fucking RELIEF, that I at least could be under a friendly roof with all of my crap for at least the rest of the afternoon.
I rolled up to his apartment (which was either on 30th Ave, 30th Street, or 30th Road) and he was unpacking boxes....so I dropped my extra baggage in front if his front door, and fell into a chair.
Lenny, very nonchalantly asked, "Do you want a beer, Dude?"
It's your friends that pull you through.
I eventually got a hold of Alfredo late that night, and he apologized profusely, and said that I should head to his place. He also told me that his keys were, indeed, at that acting school of his where he said they would be, and that the wench at the acting school felt badly about missing them. Right - I'm sure that she's losing sleep over that to this day.
Anyway, I packed my luggage on my aching back and walked to the Subway for the ride to Al's house. What's funny about that, is that Lenny lived near Ditmars Ave in Queens, which is where the N Train starts....so, I got on board and rode into Manhattan, then I transferred to the R at Times Square (which was the only way I trusted myself to make such a transfer at that moment) to get to Al's place in Bay Ridge Ave, in Brooklyn, near where the R train ends. Case in point, I took the yellow line for about 3 hours, from one end to another, through 3 Burroughs, to finally rest my beyond-weary head.
Let's recap....I'd taken a cab from LaGuardia to Greenwich Village.....then got in another cab from there to Astoria, then took the train all the way from there to Bay Ridge Ave. My route that day basically was in the shape of a gigantic number 4!
It was after 4am when I finally got to Al's house. Before I crashed out in my sleeping bag on his floor, I called my Mom.
"I thought I'd hear from you a long time before now....where have you BEEN?"
"I'm too exhausted to tell you, but let's just say my shoulders are, literally, black & blue."
"OH MY GOD," she exclaimed, with a worried, almost-disgusted tone that even I had never quite heard at that point.
I told her I would call her the next day, and I proceeded to pass out on the most comfortable floor I've ever laid my head upon.
This was only the beginning....and it still causes explosions in my mind to think about now. But, if I'd known then what was waiting for me after that, I'd have told you it was all worth it. And I'm here to tell you that it was!