If Prozac Fails, Try Orbitz

by

08/10/2006

200 east 4th street, NY, NY 10009

Neighborhood: East Village

“Leap and a net will appear.” Right. You know what appeared the last time I leapt? MasterCard debt and an empty bottle of vodka. Don’t get me wrong – vodka can really cushion a blow, but a net it is not.

I moved to New York City on a whim. Well, most people call it moving—I call it running away. I usually move after a bad breakup. Some people say, “Your troubles will follow you wherever you go.” To those people I say, “Not if you move far enough away!” It’s completely possible to leave your troubles behind…but there will always be new troubles. That’s how the game works. But this time things were different. This time I had caused all the trouble. There I was, living in Toronto and working as stand-up comic. I had just shot my own half-hour special for the Canadian Comedy Channel. I had a great boyfriend who was an emerging celebrity movie critic and I never had to pay to see a film again. I could hold my liquor. I was considered pretty good at karaoke. And I wanted to kill myself. The good life left me fifteen pounds heavier and constantly buying self-help books. I felt insane and couldn’t refuse a cupcake.

I started experimenting with anti-depressants. I tried drinking, not drinking, working out, not working out, spending time alone, surrounding myself with friends. The only thing that seemed to fill the void was a cocktail of my own invention called a Driftertini: it was a combination of chilled Grey Goose and talking about moving away from Toronto. But that was crazy talk. C’mon – everything was finally going my way!! My life was almost perfect!

Then one autumn evening, my boyfriend came over for dinner. He had been thinking about “us” and he thought we should go the next step and get a place together. I froze. Of course that’s what I wanted, but instead of a tearful yes, “I’m moving to New York” fell out of my mouth. We stared at each other for a while in disbelief. Clearly my emotional brain had beaten down the logical side to the point where I was all id. And where do you go to bond with all the other ids? New York City.

My way of approaching a major change is through chaos. Here’s what you do. Get a non-refundable plane ticket and then forget about it. Live in utter denial until the week before. Put the possessions you planned on selling for hundreds of dollars in a box on the street marked “FREE STUFF”. It’s so much faster to move in a state of panic.

I boarded a bus to the airport with a big blue knapsack full of high heeled boots and hope. I saw my boyfriend cry for the first time as I pulled away and I felt like I was making the biggest mistake of my life. What was I thinking? I was alone, had no comedy connections in New York and only enough money to last me a couple of months at $15 a day. Really – who did that clichéd move-to-New-York-bags-in-hand thing anymore? I mean, I didn’t know how to tap dance! But it was all too late. I was on a bus, then the plane, and then a cab to the East Village. My friend Tracy had offered to put me up in her East Village apartment for “as long as it takes” (moving her into the “yes, I will help you move a dead body” category of friend).

Tracy lived in a tiny basement apartment with no windows. It stunk of pee from the two mangy cats she had rescued off the streets of Spanish Harlem. I had to lose that fifteen pounds just to fit into the bathroom. The kitchen only had a microwave, mini-bar fridge and a coffee maker. Ok. Dinner parties were definitely out. I also found out that her boyfriend from South Carolina would be moving up and in next month.

The no-windows-lack-of-light-and-air thing started to really get to me. I would fall asleep at night in the bed that Tracy and I shared with a duvet of cat hair, but would wake up filled with anxiety and panic not knowing how much time had passed, what time it was, whether it was day or night. I felt like I was being suffocated by the darkness. I developed a Jedi mind trick to help me. I would imagine gusts of nourishing outside air flowing through the cracks in the brick walls, under the door and in-between the hinges, slowly drifting through room after room until it would get to my nose and mouth. God, I was a long way from my two bedroom apartment in Toronto for $400.00 a month—Canadian. But I still didn’t want to go back.

Tracy’s boyfriend showed up. I was moved from the bed to the couch. The boyfriend and I got along… not so well. Both vulnerable and NYC green, we competed for Tracy’s attention. I kept finishing in a solid second place. I drank a lot during this period.

Every morning preceded another late night at the bars hoping to down enough to pass out. One Tuesday morning, I was, as usual, harshly woken up to a huge fluorescent ceiling light switched on above me and the TV screaming in front of me. The sofa was the only place to sit other than on the bed, so I squished myself into the corner so they could drink their coffee and continue to talk to each other at full volume. I squinted at them while fantasizing about their murder. My hair kept tickling the back of my neck. I kept brushing it away but it kept bothering me. EVERYTHING WAS BOTHERING ME!! Bleary eyed and half conscious, I went to give the back of my neck a good scratch when my hand met with a big crawling blob. I screamed and whipped it off my neck and across the room. A cockroach. No, not a cockroach, but the largest, meanest, scariest cockroach I had ever seen in my life. It smirked at me in mid-air. I couldn’t take it anymore. Tracy tried to comfort me while the boyfriend looked at me with a “serves you right” kind of look. Like it was my fault I moved to New York.

But maybe the flying roach was just the kick in the ass I needed – maybe it was time for me to fly. As delusional as I was—trying to find a nice apartment in the West Village for five hundred dollars and getting up at open mics saying “What’s up with orange toques eh? Why aren’t there garburators in washrooms?”—I slowly found my way. I found a reasonable apartment share (and then another, and then another, and then another), I found a place in the comedy scene and others of my kind. I even had a friendly drink with the boyfriend (but just one). So if “leap and a net will appear” means leap off the couch when you find a roach crawling on you and decide its time to get your shit together, then yes, I agree, the universe is magic. Then again, if it was that easy, if a net appeared every time we leapt –– well…there would be no comedy.

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