In San Francisco, I hardly missed an opening, concert, or performance because, compared to New York, there was little else going on to clog up my schedule. Now when I miss an event it doesn’t sting because I miss so many and frankly, there is always an excuse. So many openings, premieres, and debuts come and go that I just chalk it up to being “too busy or too broke.” One of the reasons I love (and hate) New York is: Everyday, wherever you are, you’re missing something. Then again, wherever you are is also the place to be.
People here constantly overextend themselves. We want to do everything at once and the theme in general is to keep “busy.” Back home, it was (or at least it used to be) perfectly understandable to quit your job so that you could have some time to “find yourself.” If you were fired, a host of friends would celebrate your newfound independence from that asshole boss who clearly didn’t understand you. You could spend weeks slacking and everyone would agree with you that looking for work was degrading and time-consuming and they understood you completely. It was all about dignity and not selling your soul to Starbucks or Circuit City. But this was a West Coast affectation because in New York you don’t have time to be unemployed and broke because you’re just too busy.
I remember once when I was strung out in San Francisco, I went to this clinic to talk to someone about my problems and get a referral for, you know, more drugs. When I got there, this woman about my age, who was yelling, screaming and wet (with her own urine), wearing gray sweatpants and stilettos, locked herself in the bathroom, and refused to come out. Her bad attitude (and outfit) paid off because they set her up with an apartment and $600 a month. Basically, the lesson I learned was to prove to someone that you can’t take care of yourself and you’ve got it made. Girlfriend never has to work so now she can’t say she’s too busy to party or throw a fit. That wouldn’t work here.
Here in NYC people will give you any excuse from the understandable to the preposterous for being late or being absent. If you have a date to meet someone at the Cooper Hewitt on the Upper East Side and you are hung-over in Jersey City you practically have a built-in explanation. In fact, if you even mention Jersey City, people are like, “Oh, you poor dear—I completely understand.” If you miss a cocktail party thrown in your honor because after a stupid three-day binge you’re stuck in the “K-Hole,” it’s perfectly believable to say you were mugged. It is reasonable to be holed up at work, on deadline, for 72 hours because this means you are busy and busy, which is a part of “business,” is good. In New York, there is no such thing as “too busy.”
Cellular phones are both the curse and the key to good excuses. For some people their cell phones are their primary phones and everyone I know who owns one has said they “missed your call” or they didn’t hear it ring. However, “I lost your number” is a really lame excuse because cellphones have caller ID and they store phone numbers whenever your accuser calls. Freak snowstorms, brushes with death on the J train, partying with the cast of the Sopranos, being attacked after eating Mexican in Jackson Heights, getting delayed in Passaic on a bus to see Dave Matthews—all of these explanations are within the realm of feasibility. So go ahead: make something up, go crazy, be creative and fallacious. Since everyone in New York is too busy, everyone has an excuse and nothing is unacceptable. Except maybe the truth.
“Information is the currency of power.”—Joan Crawford