Written last week.
The thing about America is, they’re always trying to sell you stuff. In shops, they’re trying to upsell you, passing it off as doing you a favour. You tip for everything and you feel like shit if you make someone resent you because you didn’t tip, a confusion of interpersonal relationship and the instinct that makes you want to be sound with the fact that you’re being harvested for dollar bills. On subways and on billboards, they’re selling you smartphones, laptops, cameras, religion, surgery, postgraduate courses in forensic science. Constant bombardment with incentives to get money, so you can spend it on stuff. So you will have stuff. A total noise of encouragement to collect extensions of personality.
I don’t have any stuff. I’m living with three friends in a fairly spacious flat in Bedford-Stuyvesant, but I’m in a parallel universe to iPhone advertisements. We have no furniture. All this sounds like a really self-pitying complaint of a middle class dickhead who has found himself living hand to mouth a few thousand miles from Superquinn sausages and a Labrador Retriever for the first time, but I’m not actually resentful or desolate or any of that crap. I kind of like that we don’t have any furniture. I’ve said it with joke pride to a half dozen people. It’s probably worth noting that I’m only sleeping on a floor under a Salvation Army thrift store blanket this week because I spent all my money on having stupid fun in Dublin and in my first week in New York.
My money. It’s not my money, actually, but Bank of Ireland’s money, which they are kindly allowing me interest-free use of until September. As a side-point I haven’t found Bank of Ireland New York yet, if it still exists, but it’d be pretty ideal if I could go there, check my balance and cash a cheque I got for doing some sort of neuroscience marketing thing. A check, not a cheque, I suppose.
That was my second job, if you can call it a job. I answered a post on Craigslist and went to 5th Avenue and 34th Street (again, right beside where I promoted political social networking last week). Someone put about 30 sensors on me and asked me to do button-press tasks with a remote whilst watching a screen and staying completely relaxed and still. These tasks were interspersed with ads for Samsung widescreen televisions. Another thing to want. It felt pretty bad to actually help neuroscientists tell corporations how to best convince people that they need a new television, I must say. But it paid $75, and I need that to eat.
Our oven and cooker doesn’t work either, which makes it slightly more expensive to stay alive once you get tired of bread and butter. But maybe the landlady will keep faith, and fix it, and I can eat rice. My flatmate had a steak dinner yesterday, because he worked a lock-in at a bar and got to keep the entire proceeds for himself. He is a cunt.
It’s impossible to stay down in New York though. I’m in Bedford-Stuyvesant, 90% black (of which I’d estimate about 30% are African or Caribbean), 10% white dudes on fixies cycling around with helmets with foam shark-fins on them. A few days ago I went to Coney Island and ate a candy apple. Coney fucking Island. I’ve been knacker drinking in Battery Park twice, looking at the Statue of Liberty. The Onion comes out once a week in physical format. Washington Square Park is my favourite place to waste time in the entire world.
The wall around the corner from our flat says “WOMP” on it in unskilled spray paint, unexplained but definitely self-confident. And the steak dinner flatmate’s going to buy speakers. Maybe things are better than they seem.