Another win yesterday for the New York Mets and I’m feeling super fine over here! I missed the first half of the game last night to go to an event for a group, the Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans (EPNO), of which I am a proud alumnus.
(Quick aside — if you live in New Orleans, check out EPNO’s web page. They are currently accepting applications and I would rate this a top experience in my NOLA life so far. Ask me about it if you have any questions.)
I hadn’t seen some of these friends in a while, so I got a few of the “Wait, so what are you doing for money right now?” I get that question a lot. (Including from my mom every time we talk.) But, I kind of like answering the question — mostly because it’s funny and weird,and I like talking about myself.
So, for anyone who’s interested, I figured a fun post would be a brief synopsis of my new life in the gig economy.
In a sentence: I want to be a writer. At the moment, the main goal is to write a book about my hike on the Appalachian Trail. It turns out that writing a book is a lot harder than just putting 80,000 words on the page. Though that’s not the easiest thing, either. Earlier this week, I touched on some of the challenges of weaving in themes, and I’ll get to more on that — and other considerations — in the coming weeks.
But the obvious problem with writing a book is that, while I’m writing it, it makes no money. My budget has scaled back since my days working a 9 – 5 job, but I like to eat and socialize too much to play the role of the starving artist.
So how am I paying the bills?
First, I was lucky enough to be in a position to buy two houses back in 2012 and 2014. Basically, after grad school / teaching marching band in Asia, I moved to New Orleans in 2009 without a lot of money. I was an AmeriCorps member, so my cash situation didn’t change much, but I learned to save a little bit of the pittance that is an AmeriCorps stipend. When I got a real, paying job in 2010, I had no idea what to do with ALL THAT MONEY ($50,000 a year…so not even that much, but a lot more than the $12,000 I was making in AmeriCorps) and used it to buy two shotgun doubles.
So I find myself with four units, and renting those contributes to a good chunk of my income. It’s not enough to live off of, but it helps.
I finished up the trail and got back to New Orleans in mid-October with the idea of filling in the gap between my rent-driven income and booze-driven expenditures with writing gigs. But writing gigs aren’t super easy to come by, so I had to fill the gap with whatever I could find.
I was a security guard at Voodoo Fest and delivered food via an app, called Postmates, with my crowning achievement when I was delivering a pizza and four sodas to some students on Tulane University. I balanced the pizza on my handlebars with my right hand, and carried the beverage carrier in my left hand as I cruised up busy Claiborne Avenue. (Which hand was I going to brake with? Good question.) When I hit a bump, the sodas fell out the bottom of the carrier and were crushed in traffic. I had to go back and beg for another round of sodas before competing the delivery, which ended up taking an hour, and earned me only $4.
I also got my first couple of gigs as a background extra in TV shows and movies. My first was on NCIS: New Orleans for which my role was personally memorable.
The Assistant Director came over to the background extras and asked, “Hey, is anyone hungry? Does anyone want to eat a brat on camera?”
My arm shot up, and the AD walked toward me with a bratwurst, perfectly grilled with rings of brown up the length of the sausage, dressed with a piles of sauerkraut and a light spread of mustard.
I guess he could see the crazy gleam in my eye because he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Only eat this while we’re filming, and this sausage needs to last you four takes. Do you understand?”
I nodded my head. “What happens if we go 12 takes?”
“You may have three sausages.”
We went 14 takes and, because I wanted to make the most of my luck, I kindly requested four different types of sausage. Bratz Y’all! obliged.
As 2017 turned to 2018, I started to pick up additional background extra gigs. I was in a commercial for Touro Hospital, which is now on the side of public buses in the city. If my face ends up on the side of a bus, I will have achieved everything I set out to do in this life.
I was a valet in a movie set in 1962 with Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali.
And a Depression-era migrant worker.
And a square dancer (strangely enough, it was, specifically, a rodeo for Messianic Jews).
Among other roles.
The positives are that the pay is fine, I get lots of free food, it’s kind of hilarious, and it’s so mindless, I can get writing done while I’m on set.
And then, in 2018, I started to pick up a couple of steady writing gigs — both as a result of my blog. I post one of my adventures each week on Mid-City Messenger, and I’m the writer for 504ward, an organization “whose mission is to retain the influx of young talent in the New Orleans region.”
And with those two gigs, plus the rental income, I did some math and determined I only needed to make $128 per week in order to reach a financial break-even. So I walk a few dogs, work on set here and there, and I’m all set. And the more jobs I can find writing, the less of that I’ll need to do.
And I think there are writing gigs out there for me. Today, for example, I had a meeting at The Advocate about writing the occasional column. I’m heading to the New Orleans Baby Cakes home opener, tomorrow night, which will hopefully be my first of those columns. No promises, but my fingers are crossed I’ll come up with something they like.
So that’s that. The gig lifestyle. All with the hopes of giving me as much money as I need to live, and as much time as I need to write a book.
So far so good! Most importantly, it’s fun and it’s interesting, and every day feels exciting.
Any thoughts? Always nice to hear them.
Mets just won again — first in the NL East. Greatest team of all time. Life is good.
Now I’ve got to go take Bingo and Louie for a walk. Today will truly be great if we can avoid a repeat of Louie’s bad luck! C’mon, Lou!