I just wrote a long email to a friend I haven't spoken to in over a decade. I figured it might make a good post. It’s a recap of the last twelve years of my life, but it’s also sort of about how became a professional writer.
I’ve lengthened it even more and am presenting it in a few installments.
Here's Part I.
1994: Go South, Young Man.
I moved from Syracuse, NY to Calabash, NC in May. Found a job as a waiter at The Crab House, a seafood restaurant just north of Myrtle Beach. Learned to write my name upside down in crayon on the butcher paper we used as tablecloths, which is how I introduced myself to guests.
“Hi, I'm...BRIAN…and I'll be your waiter. Can I start anyone off with some sweet tea?”
All the waiters at The Crab House wore nametags that stated where they were from: Tom from Dallas, Texas; JoAnn from Cleveland, Ohio. We ranged in age from twenty to twenty-four. We kept doggie bags in the dish room so we could take home portions of king crab that the customers didn’t finish.
Outside, the dumpsters overflowed with shells, bits of potato and desiccated lemon wedges. You had to hold your breath when you went within forty feet of them.
One day a blue crab pinched a line cook while he was taking it out of the crate. He smashed it to pieces with his boot. “That’s one fuckin’ crab that’s not making it to the pot.”
I was staying with two friends, Paul and Mike, at Paul’s mother’s house. She was living on the west coast through the summer. Neither of my friends had jobs, so I offered to put in a word at the restaurant.
Paul lasted halfway through group training. I was working the lunch shift at the time, and he looked at me from across the room, smirked, and shook his head. When I looked up again he was gone. Mike made it through a whole day as a busboy and never returned.
The restaurant manager asked me: “Got any other friends you want to send our way?”
I started homebrewing at the house. For my first batch, I decided on Irish Stout. After transferring the fermented brew to two dozen bottles, I noticed there was still some beer left in the bucket. I was all out of bottles so I searched the refrigerator for some sort of container and found a half-full MD 20/20 bottle, cleaned it out and poured the remaining beer in there. I capped all the bottles, screwed the cap back on the MD bottle and stored everything in my closet.
The next night I came home from work and Mike told me he’d heard a loud noise, like a pop, come from my room.
“Did you check what it was?”
He curled back into the sofa. “I was afraid to.”
I went into my room and opened the closet door. The MD bottle had exploded under the pressure of the beer, taking out a half dozen other bottles and lacquering the closet walls with sticky brew. I had to pick out bits of glass from the shag rug.
It was a good summer.
I hung out at the beach a lot. Did a keg stand once at an outdoor party and woke up with grass in my teeth.
I had an ’83 Pontiac Grand Prix that didn’t go in reverse.
I played strip poker with a girl name Sheri, but she wouldn’t let me kiss her.
I read a book called “Going Crazy,” which is about the process of going crazy. After I finished the book, I worried that I might be going crazy.
I pulled a fire alarm at an apartment complex at 3am and denied that I did it, then confessed.
I awoke on my friend Eric’s couch to find a policeman flashing his light in my eyes. Someone said they saw us shooting a BB gun at lights outside the apartment. Eric came out of the bedroom and denied it. Then they found the box for the new gun under a table.
One night my roommates and I came home from a bar, turned on the TV and watched a white Ford Bronco crawl down a California highway, while people cheered from overpasses.
September came and the town went to sleep. Nothing but golfers and old people. I decided to move to Raleigh.