The Market: An aspiring sportswriter’s autobiography detailing his rookie year living in New York City, the homeland of the uprooted.
That's me covering the NFL Draft in '07. I was sitting in front media big wigs Colin Cowherd and John Clayton. Reporter Jay Glazer was a few seats to my left. I remember paying attention to reporter Adam Schefter, who seemingly was on his cell phone all day. A college degree and two years later, the only people calling me is my Mom and the Federal Perkins Loan Payment Center.
By Ryan McCord
The only true courage: the kind which enables men to face the unknown regardless of the consequences. –Hunter S. Thompson
Hello officer, can you point me to the direction of Broadway?
For its millions of green visitors, time can seemingly stand still upon entering the majestic atmosphere of New York City’s Times Square, Central Park, or Yankee Stadium.
In contrast, for the millions of lives of New York’s working class residents, or the oil that makes this monster tourist attraction machine run 24 hours a day, time ruthlessly cooks away at their biological clock like its in a microwave.
I have lived in New York for a little over two months. Its a great place for a writer/artist to live. My imagination runs wild. But I feel like I have aged a year inside of two months already. I’m no expert, but I’m guessing that’s equivalent to throwing in a frozen t-bone in for a 15 minute defrost.
Welcome to the 2009 version of New York City, where most visitors would probably identify their, “Welcome to New York” moment as getting lost on the Subway, riding with a legally blind cab driver, tipping a busker loose change after watching him break dance, or purchasing a lifted Coach purse in Chinatown.
Most civilians that call New York home, however, would deem their “Welcome Moment” as the day they lost their innocence of mind which is probably around the same time the verbal expressions “Jesus!”, “Christ!” (or both), “God!”, “Damn!” (or both) or “What the Hell!?” became a compulsion of ease like a teenager texts during algebra class. (The pinch of irony behind this paragraph, of course, is that the born and raised New Yorker-as sharp as they can be-upon reading this specific analogy, is probably looking at the page with confusion like your grandma did the first time she tried to answer a handy phone.)
Occasionally you run across someone, like myself, who hopes to never speak of my “Welcome” moment. Hell, it took me another month just to work up the intestinal fortitude to write about it. No I didn’t wake up in an iced-down bathtub to discover I had a kidney removed. Nor did I unwittingly sleep with a transsexual. But I assure you my moment has not happened to anyone else on his or her first full day as a working class resident-or a glorified tourist-of New York City. My Welcome moment lasted only a handful of seconds but the mental scar that ensues will prove to be indelible. It’s the kind of story that the magnitude of the incident can best be punctuated with the expression, “You can’t make this stuff up.”
I was riding the subway to work and the first train I get on in Queens was relatively empty. There were three or four other passengers, including one prostitute accompanied by a young girl (which I assume was her daughter, maybe five years old). After a few stops, the prostitute and the young girl exited the train. For whatever reason, probably anxiousness, I was already standing and momentarily sat in the seat formerly occupied by the prostitute herself. I simply sat down in a clearly vacant seating bench on the train, when not two seconds went by when a woman and a gentleman both began asking, “sir?” repeatedly. It wasn’t until the 10th second I finally look up to see what I assumed was going to be a bum pissing himself or whatever (have seen that since), until I realized they were talking to me. The good Samaritans were pointing to the area of my own ass with a petrified look of disbelief. I slowly rose, not having the slightest clue what the problem could have been. Then I took a peak at the seat only to find a fresh streak of blood had been left behind. That’s fresh out of the oven, leaving an impression the outlining size of a pinky finger. At first I was shocked. I hadn’t been that surprised since I found out Rick Astley was white.
I still managed to find a silver lining: thank God I was wearing a black pair of Dickies workpants to camouflage any evidence from wearing a hooker’s PMS. The initial shock turned to disgust, and soon after, like a schizo, I convinced myself that what happened was probably a sign of good things to come for the endeavor that I bank on beaconing my vocational future. Who knows, maybe someday my “welcome” anecdote will hit mainstream; like telling a performer to “break a leg,” when someone moves to New York City, the common sendoff line could be, “Sit on hooker’s blood.”
Get used to thinking that way. Become an idealist if you weren’t already. It helps keep your optimism gauge half full in a city that can gradually drain the prudence that fuels your spirit with each morning commute. The city swirls in pessimism; submerged in negative vibes no thanks to the millions of uncivil wretches contributing in any way they can. From yelling, pushing, shoving, begging to fingernail clipping-this is where bad social habits come to prosper. If you ride the subway everyday you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I moved to New York on Monday, September 1, 2009. I am currently sharing a three- bedroom apartment, of which I found on Craigslist, with two young ladies from the area.
Here’s a look, on move-in day, Sept. 1, of the walk-in closet I pay $600 a month for in the Kew Gardens division of Queens.
I moved here because I am an aspiring sports writer, and this is the place to cover the world of professional sports. I first realized this when I was 10 years old, visiting New York for the first time on a family vacation in Manhattan. We stayed in a hotel just a few buildings away from the Downtown Athletic Club, where perhaps the most lucrative individual honor in sports is given out: The Heisman Trophy, which goes to the best football player major college football has to offer each season. It was during this trip that I paid my first visit to Yankee Stadium, where we watched the Bronx Bombers win a 9-8 thriller over Bo Jackson and the California Angels. I came away from vacation convinced that New York was the center of the universe. Almost twenty years to the day, I still do.
I like to believe that I have the acumen, intuition, inquisitive nature, professional and general life experience, imagination, writing prose, and lack of meat in my head necessary to someday cover the Yankees or write a poem.
I assume every ambitious youngster growing up in rural U.S.A. craves that first ticket out of the backwoods. They may view their own hometown as vapid. On some level they may be drawn to The Big Apple and the pallet of opportunity it provides: “If all the immigrants can do it, why can’t I?” Or in contrast, there are those who are simply scared shitless of the city, and are content to get their Big Apple fix by watching the Macy’s Day Parade.
In my hometown, I came across very many near-sighted individuals. Many of which, never rolled the proverbial dice a day in their life (unless you count vacationing in Europe). You hear people talk big, but when it becomes apparent that a great deal of personal sacrifice is going to have to be made in order to accomplish those lofty goals, well then.
To call someone near-sighted may sound disrespectful, but in actuality, there is nothing wrong with the folks from my old neighborhood; in fact, I am mildly envious of their contentment. You can make a hell of a living enjoying the clean green air that occupies the Great Northwest. And what I would give to have a garage to play with during the fall. I guess I just never related to a lot of those people on a personal level, while I’m pretty sure they felt likewise with me. It’s unfortunate in a way, but ever since I left my hometown in the fall of 2002 I have felt like a stranger every visit since.
I’m beginning to learn that there are three kinds of people in this world: 1.) The man who is content with life on the beach, staring at the ocean, applying sun block 2.) The man who looks out at the ocean, licks his thumb, holds it above his head, proceeds to save for a boat, then heads out to sea and 3.) The man that somehow got away from God while he was creating everyone else in mass quantities. This is the guy scouring the beach with a metal detector.
Guy #1 respects guy #2, but will tell his friends that guy #2 is suffering from sensory overexposure c/o the television. Guy #2 is either a scheming, silver tongued, money grubbing pig who got his way to sea by stealing a boat in the first place (and caught a shitload of fish while failing to pay his help their promised share) or, he is simply an honest, talented workaholic with big dreams and a dog who takes the occasional Sunday off to watch football and think about how good Guy #1 has it during commercial breaks. Guy #3 is the guy driving the Saturn you just passed at 65 mph during rush hour as he was deep into chapter 12 of “The Tommyknockers.”.
Where do my brethren fall? I don’t even know some of my old friends anymore, as many have become the proverbial beach settlers themselves. But they don’t know me anymore, either. The more time adds up since my high school and college graduation, the less I seem to have in common with people who I thought would be life long cronies. From what I’ve been told, that’s life.
Even as a college graduate, going on two full years now, with a degree journalism, I am still an unaffiliated reporter. The newspaper industry is flat out folding before our very eyes, and young journalists are facing the realities of having to go in another direction professionally, or wait out the logjam of a line for an entry-level position. My mom told me the other night that The New York Times Co. is laying off over 200,000 more people. Great. Now I have nearly a quarter of a million more people-(who have the NY Times cemented to their resumes nonetheless)-to compete with in the media market.
He’d had every choice in the world. And he wound up sword fishing. He wound up, by one route or another, on this trip, in this storm with this boat filling up with water and one or two minutes left to live. There’s no going back now, no rescue helicopter that could possibly save him. All that’s left is to hope its over fast. –Sebastian Junger, author of the American classic, The Perfect Storm.
Thus far, I have spent most of my combined daily two-hour subway commute reading Mr. Junger’s masterpiece. With respect to the families who still deal with the infamous Andrea Gail tragedy at sea, I couldn’t help but see the parallels of that excerpt from the book to my own professional aspirations. After all, it’s nobody’s fault but mine that I stuck with going after a degree that ideally was to help me land a newspaper-reporting job upon graduation. I could have chosen just about anything else that didn’t include a great deal of math or science, and probably made a pretty respectable living at it. I could have changed majors; undergrads do that all the time. But now here I am, not only at sea, but now I will have to ride out a motherfucker of a storm. By moving to New York, The Media Capital of the World, one could say, I headed right into the most awesome storm my young life will ever encounter.
And something inside kept saying that this was the best thing for me to do. These signals were being sent to my conscience while I spent much of this past summer working at a salmon processing plant in Alaska. I left my home state of Washington knowing that I would come back with a bundle of travel money to support my writing habit and find a place to bring everything full circle. By handling fish for 16 hours a day, a man can get a lot of thinking done. I did a lot of that and a lot of praying. I was confused. I needed guidance on where to take my life. I knew I was approaching such a pivotal point in my life once I got through with my work in Alaska. To digress for a sentence: if your asking about the work experience itself, let’s just say I wouldn’t wish the experience on my worst enemy. But to have a higher power speak to you, give you direction on where to go with your life, that’s something that I certainly hope everyone gets the chance to experience.
Here’s what I think are the essential elements to succeeding in life’s pursuit of happiness (if you wish to take the road less traveled, i.e., the integral route):
Laugh. It’s perhaps God’s greatest gift to man. It’s the ultimate release valve; and it’s easy to find.
Network: Make good with and compile as many personal contacts as possible. It took me years to realize that knowing people is how you are going to get to where you want to go. Nobody has ever done it completely alone, I assure you. I know that for the longest time, as a person who takes pride in my independent and individualistic nature, I probably took what I thought were character strengths a little too far.
I hate the term and the stigma it carries, but for nearly a decade I have been somewhat of a “loner.” I wasn’t a complete hermit, because I have made plenty of friends over the years, however none of them happen to be of or around my same age or ideal ilk. And for the last eight years, while I was trying to get my life back on track after allowing my talents to just sit on a shelf in the attic while I partied my way out of college, I became a man and an artist. First of all, I was well aware that most people don’t go back to college (if they go at all) after dropping out once already. Maybe its because they fear being humiliated, knowing it didn’t work out before. I have never actually called anyone the “S” word, but if you go back to college a second time, and leave your final class maintaining the status quo (i.e., degreeless) that makes you Stupid in my book. Secondly, I always knew I was intelligent enough to earn a college degree; I was just a classic case of someone who needed time to develop my own universe and overall concept of how the world turns. Ahh, the road to self-discovery-what a great excuse!
Nobody knows exactly why “late bloomers” take so long to come around the proverbial mountain. Perhaps the smartest man God ever produced, Albert Einstein, was a patent clerk while he was still in his 30’s.
Another key to success is learning to accept failure. It’s just something that you have to develop a shield for. If I had a nickel for every time I was rejected for a job or writing opportunity over the last couple of years, I would be living in Greenwich Village as opposed to Queens. Nobody likes being rejected, its human nature to feel wanted by something or somebody. You can’t let some rejection letter or email cause you to feel irrelevant. If you get rejected enough, you almost become immune to it. If you get rejected enough, that should say a lot about who you are as a person. Congratulations for sticking with it. Thankfully, I have developed a sense of humor for it all. More on the remedy of laughter later.
How do I know all this crap about succeeding in life, even though my own professional career has amounted to half a pile of dirt thus far? I read this quote, used by the Nixon Campaign for President during the ’72 election:
Nothing in the world can take place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. –Unknown