Monday, July 12th, 2010

Diary of an Unemployed Class of '10 Philosophy Major in New York City, Part 4

2204884884_718f67b4e8Is it petty to not share in the happiness of someone else's success? Is it petty to wish-to beg, even, knuckles blistering, eyes bloodshot, beseeching each god-for their horrific downfall? Is it immature to consider another's achievement, to imagine them doing the job you wish you had-walking around in your fancy pants, sleeping with your wife in your own bedroom, eating your Frosted Mini Wheats, loudly slurping the milk-and sink into despair? Is this unfair? Should this be beneath me? I woke up in an un-air-conditioned lethargy this morning and, as I have for the past several years, rolled over to open my laptop.

You. Bearer of bad news. Barer of breasts. I hovered over the seventeen or so tabs of Facebook I had open from the night before and, having selected one, eased into inoculating myself against the day's coming annoyances. Girls' phones, lost, drowned in so many toilets. Send me your numbers, QTs! A sullen she-bro from Long Island sharing her low resolution photo of a car. An idiot and his lone, cloying Tweet about soccer. What a sweet and noxious cocktail the mix of Facebook and Twitter statuses makes for-like grenadine and clorox, or Hitler and Mussolini waltzing. That's enough news for this morning, so-wait.

And there I saw it. J___ had shared something. What a sad mess of sharing Facebook has made. What sharing once meant, what virtue it once stood for. Here, I have a piece of key lime pie. Would you like some? I will share it with you. But now-HERE, DO YOU WANT TO SEE WHAT PICTURE I TOOK ON MY PHONE TODAY? LET ME ~*~*SHARE~*~* IT WITH YOU. LET ME SHARE SOME FRESH PEPPER, GROUND DIRECTLY INTO YOUR EYEBALL. J___ had shared an article she wrote. Her article. Her words. Her… byline. I hadn't seen her name above text since we dated and I used to help edit pieces she wrote for our high school paper. They would be about assemblies, and carpools. And now they are about high art.

I groaned and the hot wind in my chest rattled and I hated my apartment's stupid crooked floors and how I didn't have any socks. I thought about the fact that I had probably overdrawn yesterday when I bought that iced tea-overdrawn so far, so deep down into the red that it would take an array of advanced financial algorithms to sort out how many fines to apply to my account. An oversized alarm probably sounded at Bank of America headquarters, and confetti dumped down from the ceiling, and all the analysts hooted and yelled and kissed, "I can't believe the kid did it again! Unbelievable!" I read her article and it was very good. I hovered over her name and thought about clicking and congratulating her, but I didn't want to come across as depleted and insincere, which I was.

I stepped out of my bedroom and the cooler air felt good. If there is something that is the opposite of sex, the apartment reeked of it. I dressed quickly, crept past R___'s crumpled, corpse-like form on the futon to pick up my sneakers-the first rays of noon slapping at his grimacing face-and pretended I had an errand to run down on Houston. If anyone pressed me I'd say I was going to go print out a few copies of my resume. Ha! Poor little sheet. Sometimes I compulsively check my resume, scouring it for some overlooked explanation of how often it's ignored. Perhaps I introduced an inadvertent racial slur? Did I include overt Freemason symbolism? Is "FUCK ALL JOBS & EMPLOYERS" written in tiny type at the bottom? As I walked past 1st Avenue, I noticed a crowd formed across the street around a chicly dilapidated theater. I thought maybe it was something neat like a firing squad or a zany "flashmob" type iPhone thing. Oh, well, no, it was some sort of red carpet event. Was I late?

An impossibly tall, grinning, heron-like woman clothed in a matte black trapezoid shimmered in the light of the sloppy sun and waved from behind a barricade. My shirt smelled like ramen seasoning powder in the humid wind. She was standing in front of one of those walls with patterned logos on it that awful people pose before to be photographed at momentous occasions like the launching of a handbag line. I remembered last summer, when L___ told me about his friend's fundraiser for "nightlife preservation" in New York-is there any way to place something like that in more than one set of quotation marks? I imagine there were a lot of red carpet logo walls there. I thought of this now and closed my eyes and faced the gut-punching sun and thought about how it's supposed to burn out in a trillion years or whatever, and how maybe that could come a little sooner and it wouldn't be so bad.

There is actually an industry term for these red carpet backdrops, and I remember stumbling upon it for the first time a few months ago, and then feeling a bit lightheaded as my brain strained, in desperate cognitive self-preservation, to purge this awful factoid. I was glad I couldn't recall. There's really no excuse for anyone to ever know this word. The crowd craned their heads, a thousand Wayfarers creaked in unison, and an ecology of LCD devices shot up for a better look-but no phone was smart enough to identify this glamor-ridden anonymous giantess. Her very atoms were animated by the recognition of the crowd. Her skin gleamed and her eyes flashed with a terrible shine. Look on my shins, ye Mighty, and despair. Did anyone know who she was? The starers strained further. A small pale man in a cream hat, turning away from the red carpet colossus, murmured to a young flat-chested woman with him, "there's an app for that!" and smirked. O, to have a flamethrower in New York.

I rounded the corner in a hurry because, really, that shit was just the worst. I thought about foraging for pizza somewhere, and began to roam. Sometimes my employed friends remark, charitably, how nice it must be to be without a job and free during the day, and walk wherever and whenever I want. To be free! A comment analogous to saying how nice it must be to have no hands, what with saving so much on the cost of mittens and all. A weeping willow's tentacle brushed against my face, and I let it, without tilting away. I'm always told that to fit in here, you ought never look upward-it betrays a delight with one's surroundings that natives find unsavory. But it was a beautiful, enormous tree, and I looked it up and down, and smiled at the babies sitting underneath it in the hazy shade, then immediately stopped because I didn't want anyone to see this guy with savage hair and a beard staring at their baby. Walking further, I passed a gaunt couple walking two healthy looking dogs. They were cheery in spite of their sickliness, perhaps owing to their fine linen outfits, or having been freshly exhumed that afternoon.

"Yeah, I know, it's just-"

"Well I'll tell you what it is," the stately heroin wraith replied with a yawn. "It's just that DOING NOTHING is so TIII-IIIRING. Just sitting DOWN! It's just so HARD! I'm exhaa-aausted!"

They smiled at each other and one of the dogs chirped a bit and I wondered whether I had held my face up to the sun for too long earlier. I walked briskly back home and congratulated J___.

Previously: Diary of an Unemployed Class of '10 Philosophy Major in New York City, Part 3

Sam Biddle is a recent college graduate in New York City.

Photo by AlPie, from Flickr.

35 Comments / Post A Comment

d-zastr (#5,065)

it is called a 'step-and-repeat'


Abe Sauer (#148)

No shame. There is actually a very good excuse for knowing that term and it's called "being employed in that industry." "Employed" being the operative word.

aliceinthecities (#1,911)


Bittersweet (#765)

As much as I love these (and I really do), I'm really hoping that someday soon we don't see any more because Sam's gotten a job (or a book deal).

hockeymom (#143)

I am so with you. I want to read one of these that says "Diary of an Employed Philosophy Major."

Screen Name (#2,416)

As a philosophy major, I can write that:

Diary of an Employed Philosophy Major: Day 1

The back office at the 7-11 is not at all what I expected. Diane, the manager, told me to arrive early my first day — customary employment paperwork, ID card, red smock fitting, etc. — but I really wasn't prepared for The Back Office, the innermost sanctum of a 7-11, a place which most assuredly deserves the capitalization I've given it.

Rachel Lazar (#6,011)

I was about to say, I would read a book by you. Although I can't decide if I'm comforted or saddened by the fact that other people pretend to have errands to run as an excuse to walk around the city.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

How do I give you a dollar?

A.R. Chrisman (#2,964)

Jumping on the empathy train here: I read this while listening to some Monk and maybe wanted to cry a little at the whole sad thing.

Well written as usual. Keep it up, but here's to you "making it" or whatever.

missdelite (#625)

Cheer up, hun. Think of all the great artists who've passed on to the great beyond without a penny to their name, only to have their works sell for kajillions of dollars posthumously. There's still hope!

lawyergay (#220)

Oh, my dear. Come visit me in the Berkshires. We'll guzzle cheap wine and smoke cigarettes and talk about going to some summer stock play. After our naps, we'll order a pizza and watch "Scarface."

MollyBloomberg (#1,169)

It's the little details that I like so much – "My shirt smelled like ramen seasoning powder in the humid wind."

I hope writing makes the suffering tolerable and gives the illusion of meaning. I am rooting for you.

Triple_Lindy (#5,915)

yes. the ramen line got me as well. as did the flamethrower line.

you got talent kid. good luck.

Abe Sauer (#148)

This series is beginning to remind me of Little Miss Sunshine: "Yeah. French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he's also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh… he gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, Those were the best years of his life, 'cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn't learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you're 18… Ah, think of the suffering you're gonna miss. I mean high school? High school-those are your prime suffering years. You don't get better suffering than that."

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

This is like getting AIDS and saying it reminds you of Philadelphia. This is not about writing, it actually is writing.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Um, yeah, it's exactly like that.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

I agree with Abe, but I would go further after this last one.

I don't think the post was technically deficient and followed the long and deep burrows of publishing norms.

What's missing is any of him in it. Not describing his day, him.

YAY, he talked about ramen clothes, but I didn't get sensory satisfaction out of it, the way it was written.

I don't get the complexity of his feelings. As attempts at first time writing, they are akin to first drafts.

I'll wait a few years until I hear his heart beating through the intensity of emotion emanating from his prose. Instead of the more mechanical story telling.

That's just me, and since I'm a nobody that's about as much as it's worth.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

Oh, forgive me… it's analogous to it. Or maybe not quite, but in any case, I'm pretty sure you got my point.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@Jeff: You certainly went further. All the way into validity, in fact.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)


Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Whoa! Cosmic mindfuck! If you add up all my numbers you get to the universe' most powerful and magical number!

ivefay liveay

Miles Klee (#3,657)

hey jeff

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Um, hey. I totally meant to call you after last night, just kinda had a family emergency.

Too tired to read the comments, but this, for infinitely many reasons, made feel better. Thank you.

Made *me*…Me! feel better. Fucking gin.

City_Dater (#2,500)

As another young man once wrote, "life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."

(I suggest we ignore for now that he put this bit of wisdom into the mouth of a rather bitchy moral relativist.)

Redacted (#2,882)

Wait, are you ragging on the Sunshine Cinema? First and Houston? TAKE THAT BACK.

Redacted (#2,882)

Also, I sometimes wish I could go see movies or sit in parks or have lunch in busy restaurants in the middle of a workday, but I realize that the unemployment sort of precedes your ability to do such things. So instead I save my jealousy for freelancers who have the odd Monday or Wednesday off. The end.

american_scumbag (#5,204)

"O, to have a flamethrower in New York" epitomizes *those days* so brilliantly. Bravo, again.

gabba_gabba_hey (#6,046)

Ok, ok, I know, a day late, but isn't this series getting a little too stupid? Wouldn't some other ex-girlfriend see the link to this article on this guy's facebook account and go through the same sweaty, ramen-y process of growth and resignation? Isn't this guy already getting more help and recognition from these blog posts than most people could ever hope to suck out of a networking event?

And as a class of '10 English major living in the city, I have to ask: how does this guy live in Manhattan?! Just move to BK and start using the money you save on rent to bet on cockfights, or the stock market, or something! Problem solved! It'll be great for your investigative report into the inveigling of the youngs into Brooklyn cockfighting rings/your memoir.

Deborah Ricks (#6,064)

I agree with gabba_gabba_hey. I liked the first couple posts, but it's already old, and you're already getting way too much attention for pitying yourself. The only way I could get near the city was to be the help in greenwich, ct.

Mark Roberts (#6,074)

So you're lazy. Instead of polishing up your resume (paper & digital), setting up informational interviews, pursuing internships, volunteering at conferences etc. you go to museums in the afternoon, buy overpriced sandwiches and write a litany of self-pity. Perhaps you should go back to school and get an MA or PHD in philosophy and just stay in academia.

saelantwerdy (#6,105)

Loving this so much. I'm an unemployed (okay, I have an unpaid internship) MA student and I am empathizing so hard. Funny that everybody is all-up-ins with the advice, though. Is there not a chance that this is straight-up fiction? Either way, there are some fucking amazing sentences in here. Write a book, dude. I'll buy it and read it in the coffee shop where I just asked the barista if i can have a job.

mtobias (#8,382)

Is this Sam Biddle, graduate of Sarah Lawrence?

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