4P M Ck t ’14″41% H d o lx. e4 ,4 By Laura Richardson “Texans do well here,” my informant said, folding his mouth around a dripping hamburger. “I’d play the Texas connection for all it’s worth.” He chewed and talked simultaneously, filling the interstices between the masticated morsels with swigs of Dos Equis, then gingerly wiping his moustache. “Think of all the Texans you know here, then call ’em up. They take care of their own. If I were you I’d call Willie Morris” “Isn’t he from Mississippi?” “Is he?” Shrug. “Same difference. And call Larry King.” “I think he’s in D.C. now.” “Oh. Too bad. But you’ll do okay. New York is very good to Texans.” That was my first day in The City. I have been here, now, three weeks. On Sunday, July 1, I rented an apartment. The next day I was mugged in the Christopher Street entrance to the subway. On Tuesday my new landlady delivered herself of an hour-long summa voce peroration against “Perto-Reek-scum-filtypigs”; on Wednesday she screamed Italian curses for five and a half hours and then evicted me. On Thursday, July 5, I turned 29. This is not what I had in mind. I had imagined that I would arrive in late June, find a place to live, and thenas the night followeth the etceteraI would be hired. By somebody. Preferably somebody who appreciated good grammar and bad puns. Was this asking too much? You bet your sweet asterisk it was. I don’t blame New York for what has happened; I blame New Jersey. No one ever said Texans did well in New Jersey, but I decided early on that I would set up housekeeping in Hoboken. It’s a pretty little town, as industrial backwaters go: one square mile of working-class brownstones fronting on narrow streets lined with trees and double-parked cars. Across the Hudson River is The City, its cafes and theaters and employers only 13 minutes away. Hoboken rents, while not cheap, aren’t completely ridiculous. There are several excellent Italian bakeries and delis, some good inexpensive restaurants, and a bar on almost every corner, i.e., four taverns per block. Streets and sidewalks are well swept, though they could use a more stringent Curb Your Dog program, and the peace is disturbed mainly by the noises children make when enjoying themselves, like the remarkable performance of the “Nyah Nyah Nyah Chico is a Sissy” overture I was treated to one the Italians and Puerto Ricans who live in Hoboken do not exactly love each other, I was informed by someone who’d been in town for over 50 years that the last real riot happened three years ago, and things have greatly improved since stead of sponging off welfare. This speaker was Italian. Another person, recently arrived from a Caribbean island, told me that Hoboken is a very nice town, though “all them ginzos is crazy.” Such mild ethnic antagonism didn’t frighten me. It certainly beat what I had seen on an afternoon apartment-hunting trip to Brooklyn, where angry unemployed Latinos taunted passersby and groups of black teenagers with nothing to do hung around looking bored. Brooklyn felt like a city on the verge of something violently unpleasant; Hoboken felt like a town that minded its own small businesses. That was before I had the refrigerator delivered. Elio Delgado is Cuban. He sells and delivers used refrigerators. When he showed up that Tuesday morning, my new landladyan aged Italian woman whose tiny frame belied her lung powerdecided he was Puerto Rican and therefore incapable of taking the Sears Coldspot up the stairs without bringing the entire house down. Her English vocabulary being somewhat sparse, she resorted to simple but effective ethnic insults. Mr. Delgado, also less than fluent in English but certainly not stupid, resorted to Spanish. I resorted to tears, and that was the beginning of the end. The next day I was evicted for, I thought, speaking to the upstairs tenant, a mild-mannered computer programmer whom the landlady denounced as a man of no account and uncertain pedigree. Later a woman at Hoboken Rent Control informed me that my ex-landlady had something of a problem: “She wants people to rent the apartment, but unfortunately she doesn’t want them to put any furniture in it.” Oh. For all of you back home who have been reading and believing the newspaper articles about the East Coast’s love affair with Texas, I now turn to my adventures in job-hunting. The word “provincial” comes up more often than you would imagine possible. Don’t take it personally, but we still talk funnyor worse, “cute.” And one other thing: for the first time in my entire life, I am being asked repeatedly how fast I can type. Following a longstanding custom which has, as far as I know, never gotten any living human being a job, I sent a spate of resumes around to all of New York’s employment agencies that specialize in publishing, writing, and editing. My resume, compounded of the truth and a series of adjectives like “experienced,” “able,” and “skilled,” is not the least bit vague. The first line reads, “Versatile editor and writer, experienced . . . .” Despite this, the first agencies I visited nonplused me by nodding over my lifetime’s accomplishments and then asking mildly, “And how’s your shorthand?” “My what?” “Your shorthand. Fast longhand might do. I’ve got an administrative assistant spot you’d be perfect for.” “What’s an administrative assistant?” “You’d be great at it. It’s a natural. You’d be working for a husband-andwife team in legal publishing. A lot of phone work, some typinghow are you at juggling a personality clash?” “What?” I’d caught the word “juggling” and missed the rest. “Two people who hate each other. It’s a husband and wife.” I hinted strongly that I wasn’t good at marital relations, and again asked what an administrative assistant was. An administrative assistant is a secretary. The last employment agent I saw was a very nice man who seemed to take me slightly seriously, despite my being from Texas, and who asked only a few times if I were interested in becoming a secretary. I became annoyed and mentioned Discrimination On The Basis Of Sex as threateningly as I know how, which isn’t very. He promised he’d call as soon as anything turned up. Undaunted, I turned to the classified pages of the New York Times, where writers with 12 years’ experience in nuclear engineering combined with an intimate knowledge of the whys and wherefores of artificially inseminating parakeets can find work paying $13,000 a year. There were a few things that looked promising to me, mainly journals serving the food trade. I like food as well as anyone, so I sent enthusiastic letters 22 JULY 27, 1979
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