Nothing feels as good as the free thing. Leaving your apartment and stumbling across a box of free books, or kitchenware, or a sofa that you find on the street that is hopefully not full of bed bugs is like finding treasure when you were just trying to go to the grocery store. I stop and look at every single dresser, or chair, or mirror that’s left out on the street, pausing and envisioning how it could fit in my room at home. "I need one of these," I tell myself. "Who can help me carry this home," I wonder, as I scroll thru the texts on my phone.
I have always done my taxes myself, because for a long time, they were very simple. I had one job, or maybe two jobs, depending on the year, and a student loan interest form that I always lost the minute it was mailed to me. Doing my taxes is exciting, because I get to fill in the numbers, check off the boxes, and watch the amount of money that I’m going to get back from the government grow. One year, I did my taxes at the end of January, got my refund by the first week of February, and booked a plane ticket to New Orleans for Jazzfest with the proceeds. Another year, I put some of the money aside in savings and spent the rest on a Coach bag, convinced that I would have it for decades, telling myself that I deserved the purchase because that was money I worked for.
Fire Island is the kind of place you see in Nancy Meyers movies, with big, weathered houses plopped right on the beach, with steps leading down to white sand and the ocean. Tina Fey summers there with her family, and on our last day on the beach, we sat next to her. She’s very thin, but seems nice. It’s the kind of place where shoes are optional and people ride beach cruisers along the boardwalks in their bathing suits.
I worked at the Center for Performing Arts in my hometown of Rhinebeck, New York for two summers. It’s now a big red barn, set off Route 308, that we pass on the way home from the train station, but that first summer, it was a big white tent. We were loosely interested in musical theater then, only because there was little else to do, and it was the thing that everyone else was doing, so the job was perfect. That summer, we put on an especially inspired performance of Bells Are Ringing. On closing night, Natalie Merchant was in the audience, and if you watch the performance, immortalized forever on an aging VHS in Sonia’s parent’s house, you can hear her whooping cheers over the earnest applause of our parents.
Officially, we were interns, hired with the express purpose of giving us something to do for the summer, and to also maybe get some insight on how to run a performing arts space. Really, we answered the phones, set aside reserved tickets and worked the concession stands. The first summer, we spent a lot of time lying about the office and eating ice cream. I’m not entirely sure how helpful we were, but it was exciting enough. For nerdy musical theater kids who didn’t know any better, it was a sweet gig.